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School board campaign season officially opens

Some candidates have been campaigning for months, but the “official” start of the school board campaign season came Wednesday, the first day that candidates could begin circulating nomination petitions.

Submission of petitions is the only way candidates can get their names placed on the ballot, but the bar is a low one. Only 50 signatures are required in districts with more than 1,000 students, with 25 signatures needed in smaller districts. The deadline to submit petitions is Aug. 30. (It’s also possible to run as a write-in candidate, which requires registering with the district by Sept. 3.)

Candidates in several districts already have formally signaled their intentions by registering campaign committees with the Department of State. (Board candidates have to register if they intend to accept financial contributions, but candidates who plan to spend only their own money don’t have to register.)

Based on those registrations, it looks like there will be contested elections in Adams 12-Five Star, Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County and Littleton.

Denver has been shaping up for months as the liveliest board election, with nine candidates vying for four seats on the seven-member board. (Denver is the only district in the state where some members are elected from specific areas and some run district-wide. In other Colorado districts board members run at-large but, in some cases, represent specific district areas.)

The philosophical direction of the board is at stake in Denver, and the campaigns are expected to draw big contributions, as happened in 2011 and 2009. (See this EdNews story for details on contributions in past campaigns.)

Here’s s rundown on the number of candidates in some other districts who have registered campaign committees so far:

  • Adams 12-Five Star – Three candidates, two seats up for election
  • Jeffco – Seven candidates, three seats
  • Littleton – Four candidates, three seats

In Douglas County four candidates have registered committees so far. Four seats will be contested.

Interest in board elections can vary dramatically from district to district, and some districts struggle to attract enough candidates to fill the number of vacant seats. (State law allows board elections to be cancelled if there are only enough candidates to fill the open seats.)

In Aurora there are four seats up, but only one candidate has registered a campaign committee. Cherry Creek has two seats open, and one candidate has registered a committee.

School board candidates must be voters registered in the district for at least 12 months. Board elections are non-partisan. Get more information on board elections from the Colorado Association of School Boards.