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Meredith Van Deman signs the back of her 2014 mail-in ballot  outside the Columbine Library in Littleton before turning it in.

Meredith Van Deman signs the back of her 2014 mail-in ballot outside the Columbine Library in Littleton before turning it in.

Nicholas Garcia

Republican groundswell could have big implications for education

Updated Nov. 5, 8 a.m. – Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper gained a narrow lead as additional votes were tallied early Wednesday, and some news outlets called the race for the incumbent, apparently leaving GOP challenger Bob Beauprez as the odd man out in a election of big Republican gains.

While the governor’s race went down to the wire, voter intent became clear earlier in other key races and on ballot issues.

Here are the highlights:

Republican candidates were making a run at taking control of both houses of the legislature (see story).

Voters passed a bit more than half of school district tax increase proposals but defeated all of the measures proposed by five Adams County districts. As expected, voters statewide rejected a casino expansion plan that would have generated money for schools and passed a measure that will require district-union contract negotiations to be held in public (see story).

In Denver, voters supported the proposed tax increase and extension for the Denver Preschool Program.

In two races for the State Board of Education, incumbents Republican Marcia Neal of Grand Junction and Democrat Jane Goff of Arvada won reelection, leaving the board with a 4-3 Republican majority (see story)


Battleground Jefferson County state Senate races were very close, with Andy Kerr, chair of the Senate Education Committee, holding a slight lead early Wednesday. Rachel Zenzinger and one other Democrat were trailing, while a fourth Jeffco Democratic senator held a very narrow lead. Democrats appeared to have picked up GOP seats in El Paso and Pueblo counties, while the Democrats looked to be losing a Western Slope district.

While the dominant narrative of Election 2014 was the strong Republican challenges to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Hickenlooper, control of the State Board, the governor’s office and the legislature, construction funding for school districts and casino-funded revenue for school districts also all were closely watched for their education implications.

A Hickenlooper win would mean Democrats still would have important leverage at the Capitol, even if the GOP takes legislative control.

Two familiar names from past education debates in the House, Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs and Judy Solano of Brighton, were bidding to return to the Capitol on the Senate side. Merrifield was headed to victory while Solano was trailing.

The race for Neal’s 3rd District SBE seat drew late interest because Democrats for Education Reform threw a last-minute slug of independent spending behind Democrat Henry Roman of Pueblo.

Amendment 68’s backers promised that revenues from a casino at the Arapahoe Park horse track would send more than a $100 million to Colorado school districts.

Proposition 104 is a change in state open meetings law that would require public contract negotiations between school districts and employee unions, as well as open strategy sessions of school boards.

At the local level, there were proposed tax hikes in about two-dozen districts. Passage or defeat will have important implications for district construction and renovation plans and for districts’ efforts to raise local revenues to compensate for recent years of state budget cuts.

Key proposals included those in Adams County’s five largest districts, a record bond issue in Boulder Valley that was passed and a bond proposal in fast-growing Falcon, which was defeated.

In Denver, corporate leaders and education reform groups poured significant cash into the campaign for a measure that would increase and extend the sales tax that funds scholarships for the Denver Preschool Program.

Refresh your memory about the top education-related races and issues in our voter guide, and follow Chalkbeat on the web and on social media tonight for the results.