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Candidate concedes in northwest Denver

Updated Nov. 3:

Denver school board candidate Jennifer Draper Carson on Thursday conceded victory to incumbent board member Arturo Jimenez in a race she lost by 144 votes out of more than 15,000 cast.

Jimenez earned a second four-year term representing northwest Denver on the seven-member board.

When vote counting stopped late on election night, Jimenez was holding on to a 114-vote lead. As ballots continued to be reconciled on Wednesday, his advantage grew to 144.

More than 200 ballots from the northwest district race on which signatures are missing or are for some other reason still questionable continue to be reviewed by elections officials, and so the final vote tally could still change slightly in the days ahead.

But the most recent unofficial numbers posted by the City and County of Denver Clerk and Recorder show Jimenez on top, 7,841 to 7,697 – or 50.46 percent to 49.54 percent.

Jimenez sent out a newsletter to supporters early Wednesday evening with the heading “We Did It!” It claimed victory with that 144-vote margin, and Thursday the Draper Carson campaign agreed the race was over.

In an email to supports that went out Thursday afternoon, Draper Carson said, “We came extremely close and I am so proud of the campaign we ran.

“While we might disagree on the most expedient and inclusive methods of providing access to great schools, I think everyone in NW Denver can agree that there are real problems with the education system and we must come together to address them.”

Thursday, Jimenez said, “I was confident all along that we would win, and I’m happy that the race is conceded so that I can continue with the work I’m doing.

“This is a good win for, I think, community-driven, collaborative and responsible reform to continue. It’s more important that that movement continue than just any one candidate. That’s how I’m taking it.”

The Jimenez-Draper Carson battle had been the only DPS race that was close. Happy Haynes coasted to an easy victory over four competitors for the citywide at-large race, while Anne Rowe turned back Emily Sirota for the southeast Denver seat by an almost 2-to-1 ratio.

“I’m looking forward to working with the two new board members,” said Jimenez. “I think we have an opportunity to create a different culture and relationships than had existed.”

New board members are set to be sworn in at the conclusion of the DPS board meeting on Nov. 17, providing results are certified by the Denver Elections Division on Nov. 16 as expected.

Original story begins here:

Election Day is history, but a key Denver school board race remains unsettled.

The unofficial totals released by the Denver Elections Division before midnight Tuesday showed northwest Denver District 5 incumbent Arturo Jimenez holding a 114-vote lead over challenger Jennifer Draper Carson. As some questioned ballots were reconciled on Wednesday, the gap grew to 144.

And, although Jimenez’s campaign manager said Tuesday night that Draper Carson had called to concede the race, the challenger’s campaign disputes that and says she only telephoned Jimenez to congratulate him on a race well run.

Jimenez’s campaign manager, David Sabados characterized Draper Carson’s call as a concession Tuesday night. But on Wednesday, Sabados declined to discuss the call further.

Vote totals

Asked what the Jimenez campaign considered the current status of the race to be, Sabados said, “We’re waiting for provisional ballot results to come in, and for the election division to provide an official count.”

However, early Wednesday evening, the Jimenez campaign sent out a newsletter to supporters with the heading “We Did It!” It cited the updated vote totals, stating, “I won by 144 votes.”

Draper Carson campaign manager Greta Twombly said Wednesday, “While we feel it is unlikely the results will change, we do want to wait for the official word from the county clerk’s office.”

That could be some time in coming.

Number of disputed ballots in northwest: 239

Denver Elections Division spokesman Alton Dillard said there are 1,441 ballots with discrepancies, such as a missing signature or a signature that doesn’t match that on file for the voter.

That figure is citywide. The number of such ballots for the northwest district is 239.

Those voters will be notified by the elections office and given until Nov. 9 to fix their ballots so they can be counted.

According to the elections office, only 12 provisional ballots had been counted by Wednesday afternoon. The turnout in the all-mail ballot election was 37.7 percent.

The Denver Elections Division will not certify the results of Tuesday’s election until Nov. 16.

“That’s why we say everything is unofficial until then,” Dillard said. “Election night is just step two of the process and that (certification) is step three.”

One thing the city elections officials will not be doing, in the interim, is declaring a winner or loser in the northwest race.

“That’s not our job. We just administer the election,” said Dillard. “That’s pretty much up to the media and the campaigns. When they say, ‘Should we concede or can we wait,’ we cannot give any guidance one way or the other.”

Dillard added, “Nothing is official until Wednesday the 16th. People want to nickel and dime this, but you have to let the process play out.”

Jimenez’s return likely preserves 4-3 split

With the Jimenez and Draper Carson campaigns in limbo, the situation left others to comment on where the uncertainty leaves the future of DPS.

Voter turnout

  • Vote totals this year were substantially higher than in 2007, the most recent election involving District 1 southeast Denver and District 5 northwest Denver
  • In southeast Denver in 2007, 18,609 votes were counted compared to 23,284 this year
  • In northwest Denver in 2007, 10,877 votes were counted compared to 15,538 this year
  • Vote totals also were higher for the citywide seat, a race that occurs every two years
  • In 2007, 73,348 votes were counted for the citywide seat compared to 71,837 in 2009 and 90,583 this year

A return of Jimenez to the board for a second term would appear to preserve a 4-3 split on many critical votes that come before the board concerning the reform policies of Superintendent Tom Boasberg. Jimenez has often sided with board members Andrea Merida and Jeannie Kaplan in opposing initiatives of Boasberg’s administration.

Not in question after Tuesday is that Happy Haynes enjoyed an easy win in her bid for the citywide at-large seat being vacated by the term-limited Theresa Peña, while Anne Rowe also coasted to a win in southeast Denver District 1, where she will replace Bruce Hoyt, also term-limited.

Haynes and Rowe are expected to be largely sympathetic to the Boasberg administration, ensuring a four-vote majority that includes board president Nate Easley and at-large member Mary Seawell.

If final reconciliation of the northwest district votes gives Draper Carson a victory, the Boasberg administration would likely be supported by a 5-2 split more frequently, with Kaplan and Merida providing the dissent.

With the result in one of the three races still inconclusive, Boasberg declined to talk at length about Tuesday’s election. Instead, the DPS communications office released a prepared statement from Boasberg, which said, “It’s wonderful to see such widespread and deep support among Denver’s voters for our reforms and for the belief that we can indeed change things for the better for Denver’s kids.”

‘Reform, like beauty, in eye of beholder’

Some of the strongest campaign support for Jimenez, in both dollars and get-out-the-vote efforts, came from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. Its president, Henry Roman, said Wednesday he believes the northwest race is over.

“I think it’s resolved,” said Roman. “My understanding was that Jennifer conceded already, and if that’s the case, I don’t think there’s anything else to do.”

He is pleased with the campaign Jimenez ran.

“I think Arturo has invested his time and energy to engage with the community on how to improve Denver schools, and at the end of the day that’s what matters,” said Roman.

“What I’m proud of is the positive and constructive tone he has maintained throughout the election, especially when others chose to go in a different direction. It has been disappointing to see some community groups use divisive tactics, and I’m disappointed for our elected leaders to have stayed silent while this has been going on.”

Jimenez – as well as Merida, who was not facing reelection this year – was targeted in recent weeks by a newly formed group called Latinos for Education Reform, which challenged them on whether they voted with the best interests of Latino children in mind.

“Reform is in the eye of the beholder; it’s like beauty,” said Roman. “I think, going forward, the message is clear, that no matter who serves on the school board, parents and teachers and the community are demanding we work together, with shared accountability and mutual respect, to move Denver schools forward.”

Election likely means little change on board

One vocal critic of Jimenez during the campaign was Alex Ooms, the founding board chair of West Denver Prep, who took issue when Jimenez claimed to “help usher” the highly successful charters into the northwest district – even though Jimenez repeatedly voted against their eventual locations.

“You’ve now got minority representation on the board with tiny vote totals, a combined majority of about less than 250 votes,” said Ooms.

In 2009, Merida claimed victory in southwest Denver with just 116 more votes than Ismael Garcia.

Ooms contrasted those razor-thin margins with Haynes’ and Rowe’s landslide wins on Tuesday in the at-large and southeast Denver races, respectively.

“I don’t see much changing (on the board) either way,” Ooms said. “It’s never as good, or as bad, as you think.”

He believes one of the most significant developments isn’t who’s coming on the board but who is leaving – at-large member Peña.

“I don’t think she was given quite enough credit for keeping everybody in line,” Ooms said. “There were often tough, bitter votes but they did get an agenda through. She grew into that position over the years and I think, with her stepping off, I see that as a big hole and I don’t see anyone on board who’s quite at that point yet.”

By the numbers: Vote tallies for each Denver school board candidate

AT-LARGE CITYWIDE – 90,583 total votes

  • John Daniel – 7,884 votes – 9%
  • Frank Deserino – 8,891 votes – 10%
  • Happy Haynes – 53,639 votes – 59%
  • Roger Kilgore – 10,332 votes – 11%
  • Jacqui Shumway – 9,837 votes – 11%

DISTRICT 1 SOUTHEAST – 23,284 total votes

  • Anne Rowe – 15,182 votes – 65%
  • Emily Sirota – 8,102 votes – 35%

DISTRICT 5 NORTHWEST – 15,538 total votes

  • Jennifer Draper Carson – 7,697 votes – 50%
  • Arturo Jimenez – 7,841 votes – 50%

Unofficial final results as posted by the Denver Elections Division on Wednesday.