Three incumbents seeking election to the Douglas County school board have raised only about $12,000 in campaign contributions, compared to a total of just over $64,000 for their three challengers.
But the figures don’t reflect the reality of campaigning in the suburban district, where outside groups are heavily involved in producing campaign materials and TV ads.
Some of those groups will have to report their income and spending, but not until next January. Others will never have to file disclosures. Growing involvement by outside groups and inconsistent state reporting requirements make it difficult to track total spending in Dougco and other districts.
One group, Americans for Prosperity, is supporting the incumbents and says it will spend in the “low six figures.” The group is one of those that won’t have to report.
Outside spending is nothing new in Dougco board elections. In 2013 about $228,000 was contributed to candidates, but nearly $221,000 was spent by independent groups that had to disclose their activitiess. An undetermined amount of additional money was spent by groups that didn’t have to report.
Board president Kevin Larsen was asked earlier in the month about the reasons behind low fundraising for incumbents. All he would say is, “We are definitely relying on and pleased to have many grassroots volunteers for our campaign, informing voters and helping turn out our supporters. … We are confident that we’ll have the resources to win.”
Richardson said, “I concur in Kevin’s thoughts.”
Larsen raised nearly $21,000 in his successful 2011 run for the board, while Richardson took in more than $27,000 that year. The third incumbent in the race, Richard Robbins, was appointed to the board in 2014 and is on the ballot for the first time this year.
Here’s what the six candidates have raised, base on reports filed with the secretary of state on Friday. The totals reflect all activity from the beginning of the year (or when candidates registered their committees) through Oct. 25. Candidates will have to file final reports by Dec. 3.
- Richardson (District A) – Income $5,525, spending $2,524, on hand $3,001
- Larsen (District C) – Income $3,906, spending $2,650, on hand $1,256
- Robbins – (District F) – Income $3,000, spending $2,537, on hand $464
- Wendy Vogel (District A) – Income $18,329, spending $12,212, on hand $6,108
- Anne-Marie Lemieux (District C) – Income $21,280, spending $12,556, on hand $8,723
- David Ray (District F) – Income $24,443, spending $13,482, on hand $10,961
All six of the candidates have raised their funds primarily through small individual contributions. Some of the candidates also reported relatively small amounts of non-monetary support.
The 2015 board election is round four in a political struggle that has seen some of the faces change while the key issues remain. Because three of the board’s seven seats are on the ballot this year, the current majority will remain intact regardless of election results.
The first round came in 2009, when four candidates endorsed by the county Republican Party swept to a majority on the board. Vouchers — the focus of a costly court battle — were an issue in 2011 board elections, but conservatives held their majority, as they did in 2013.
A big issue this year is the condition of district facilities. Some parents have pushed for putting a bond issue plan before voters, but the board has declined.
Learn more about the races in this article about a recent candidate forum. Read what the candidates have to say for themselves in Chalkbeat’s Election Center.