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Losing Douglas County school board candidates spent more than winners, records show

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)

The losing candidates in this fall’s politically charged Douglas County school board election spent about $57,000 more collectively on their individual campaigns than their opponents, new records show.

The Elevate Douglas County Slate — which included Debora Scheffel, Randy Mills, Grant Nelson and Ryan Abresch — spent $139,911 on advertising, bank fees and other operations during the campaign.

The CommUnity Slate — made up of Krista Holtzmann, Chris Schor, Anthony Graziano and Kevin Leung — spent $83,419. The candidates, who won handily, also recorded more than $35,000 in in-kind donations, items such as food and office supplies that were purchased for their campaigns by other individuals or groups.

Leung raised the most of any candidate during the waning days of the campaign, $1,817, according to records. Most candidates raised only a few hundred dollars during the last reporting period, Oct. 30 through Dec. 2.

The final finance records from the individual candidates, which were due at midnight Thursday, provide only part of the story. Outside groups including the nation’s second largest teachers union and high-profile Colorado Republican donors spent heavily to influence the election. The committee backed by the teachers union, Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids, in a report also due Thursday reported spending more than $147,ooo in the last days of the election. The Republican committee’s final spending report is due in January.

Americans for Prosperity, a free-market “social welfare” nonprofit that is not required to disclose how much it raises or spends so long as it does not advocate expressly for individual candidates, has said it spent “six-figures” to help influence the election. AFP, which is associated with the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, advocates for more school choice options, including vouchers.

The suburban Denver school district’s controversial private-school voucher program drove much of the debate in the election. The Elevate slate supported keeping the prolonged legal battle around the program alive. The CommUnity slate promised to do away with the program and the legal defense — a promise they kept earlier this week.

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