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Oil man, voucher proponent Alex Cranberg donates $20,000 to Douglas County school board candidates

Randy Mills, a member of the Elevate slate, addresses a crowd of Douglas County voters at a candidate forum. (Photo by Nic Garcia)
Randy Mills, a member of the Elevate slate, addresses a crowd of Douglas County voters at a candidate forum. (Photo by Nic Garcia)

Four Douglas County school board candidates who want to continue the legal defense of the district’s stalled private-school voucher program continued to bring in more money than their opponents, new records show.

Members of the “Elevate Douglas County” slate raised more that $47,000 collectively between Oct. 13 and Oct. 29, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.

Nearly half came from one person: Alex Cranberg, an oil magnate and staunch proponent of private school vouchers. Cranberg donated $5,000 to each of the four candidates on the team — Debora Scheffel, Randy Mills, Grant Nelson and Ryan Abresch.

Members of the “CommUnity Matters” slate, which seeks to end the court case and voucher program, raised about $12,000 during the same period.

However, the group — Krista Holtzmann, Anthony Graziano, Kevin Leung and Chris Schor — was buoyed by thousands of dollars of non-monetary contributions. Most of it came from the political committee Douglas County Parents, which can coordinate with campaigns.

Since the start of the race, members of the CommUnity slate have received more than $45,000 in non-monetary contributions. The Elevate slate has record about $3,300 in non-monetary contributions.

Such contributions cover a wide range of gifts including ads in local newspapers, postage for campaign postcards and markers to write endorsements messages on car windows.

The tens of thousands of dollars raised by candidates in the waning days of the campaign pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands being spent by outside groups to influence the race. Independent expenditure committees are prohibited from coordinating with candidates.

The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union, has poured $300,000 into the race to support the CommUnity slate. And a committee backed by the state’s Republican donor class has spent more than $200,000 on mailers and consultants to help the Elevate Slate.

As of Friday, 54,636 ballots had been returned in Douglas County, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That’s more than half of all votes cast in 2015, the last election seats on the school board were in play.

Click here to read more about how the fight over private school vouchers in playing out in this year’s election and about other issues the state’s third largest district faces.

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