Candidates in Jeffco school board recall, with help from teachers union, outpace targeted incumbents

Supporters of the Jefferson County school board recall effort, with help from the county’s teachers union, easily raised and spent more than their three targets during the last two months, new campaign finance reports show.

But the conservative school board majority members, which barely raised $6,000 collectively since the beginning of August, received support from other deep-pocketed groups not donating directly to the incumbents.

Jeffco United for Action, the organization that launched the recall, raised $61,000 between Aug. 8 and Oct. 15. Counting previous donations, that brings the organization’s war chest to more than $252,000. The group spent about $76,000 during the last two months.

The bulk of that money was spent on signature gathering to put the recall on the ballot and on advertising costs.

Jeffco United Forward, the sister organization backing a five-member slate of candidates to reset the entire board, raised about $32,000. More than $13,000 came from $10 donations made by Jeffco residences in exchange for yard signs, a spokeswoman for the organization said.

The largest single donation to Forward was $15,000 from a small donor committee run by the Jefferson County Education Association, the teachers union.

That small donor committee also gave $9,000 apiece to three candidates seeking to replace the recall targets.

Those candidates — Ron Mitchell, Susan Harmon and Brad Rupert — each raised more than $33,000. Each spent more than $22,000, records show.

Nearly two-thirds of their combined expenses went to advertising, including more than $61,000 to Mad Dog Mail, a Florida-based advertising firm that works exclusively with Democrats.

Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens, candidates for the two open seats on the Jefferson County school board who are also working with Mitchell, Harmon and Rupert, also contracted with Mad Dog Mail, earlier records show.

Among the recall targets, Jeffco school board president Ken Witt raised $5,740, Julie Williams raised $725 and John Newkirk did not file a report by the reporting deadline.

Those small donations don’t tell the whole story of the financial machine aligned with the school board majority.

The 501(c)(4) nonprofit Colorado Independent Action, which is run by the libertarian think-tank the Independence Institute, gave $10,000 to Kids Are First Jeffco, the political committee opposing the recall.

Kids are First Jeffco, an issue committee that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of funds with few exceptions, reported spending $1,084 on robocalls.

Americans For Prosperity, another nonprofit that is allowed under federal tax code to “educate voters” but not directly advocate for candidates, announced last week that it would spend “six-figures” on an advertising campaign — including two television commercials — that trumpets the board majority’s policies.

Paula Noonan, another candidate running to succeed Witt, raised $385. She didn’t spend a dime.

Matthew Dhieux, who is running to succeed John Newkirk, raised $268. He reported spending $95.

Regan Benson, who is running to replace Witt, reported $329 in donations and $12.78 in expenses.