Letter to the editor: Qualifications, rather than depth of financial pockets, should determine elections

Bruce Menzel

By Colorado law, school board elections are official coordinated elections. That is, candidates must run as nonpartisan. They can’t receive political party sponsorship. In the current Summit School District Board of Education election, there are four candidates running together. They self-identify as a slate, have joint campaign literature and a website, priorities that sound a lot alike, and they do joint fundraising. The individuals have each claimed to be nonpartisan. Still, running as a team seems to smack of political influence.

I’ve examined official filing applications submitted by all school board candidates, which include initial financial reporting. The slate reported its total financial resources as $26,453.75, while the five other candidates reported a total of $4,936.69. In an Oct. 25 article, the Summit Daily News confirmed and expanded on these numbers. Moreover, Kim McGahey, former Republican office-seeker, has tacitly endorsed the candidate slate in his Summit Daily conservative opinion column. Can he act as either a nonpartisan individual or as a Republican party operative at will?

In my view, with reference to school board elections, nonpartisan should refer to candidates’ independence of mind, whereby they should not be aligned with a slate of others or any organized group — political, religious or whatever — that has a social agenda. I’m an enthusiast of diversity of thought in the operation of public school systems. So I’m greatly bothered by this seemingly new slate approach in such elections. Is this the model for the future? Will future candidates run not so much as individuals but rather as groups, which possibly receive outside political organizational support? Are school boards going to be determined by the depth of partisan supporters’ financial pockets and influence rather than by individual qualifications? If so, I think that public education in Summit County faces a rocky road.

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