Candidate Paul Ballenger drops out of the Denver school board at-large race

a man in a jacket and jeans stands outside Denver Public Schools headquarters

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Candidate Paul Ballenger announced Friday that he’s dropping out of the race for an at-large seat on the Denver school board.

Ballenger, a 46-year-old Denver Public Schools parent who works as a security consultant, said in an interview that the decision to exit the race was strategic. 

“To really see it through — and especially for an at-large race, and it’s a big city — to have that reach, I just felt like we didn’t have what it takes to see it through effectively,” he said.

Ballenger’s exit leaves three candidates vying for an at-large seat representing the entire city: John Youngquist, a former principal of Denver’s East High School and a DPS parent; Kwame Spearman, a DPS graduate and part-owner of the Tattered Cover bookstores; and Brittni Johnson, a DPS parent and doctoral student.

Two other school board seats, representing southeast Denver’s District 1 and northwest Denver’s District 5, are also up for grabs on Nov. 7.

Ballenger lagged behind Youngquist and Spearman in fundraising as of Sept. 18, the date of the last campaign finance reports filed with the Colorado Secretary of State. Ballenger had raised about $13,850, compared to more than $57,000 by Youngquist and more than $59,000 by Spearman. Johnson had raised less than $1,000.

Ballenger said he is endorsing Youngquist for the at-large seat. Youngquist has gotten several endorsements, including from pro-education reform organization Denver Families Action, which is the political arm of an organization that was started with the backing of local charter school networks. Reform organizations have historically spent big to try to get their candidates elected.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association also spends big in school board elections. But the union has not yet endorsed a candidate for the at-large seat. 

In the last Denver school board election two years ago, the teachers union released its endorsements piecemeal in June, July, and early September. But as of late September this year, the union has only endorsed one candidate: incumbent Scott Baldermann in District 1. 

Ballenger is the second candidate to drop out of this year’s at-large race. Ulcca Joshi Hansen exited the race last month after she did not get the endorsement from Denver Families Action.

Ballenger said he entered the school board race because he was concerned about DPS’ response to a shooting inside East High in March.

“I’m proud we made sure safety was a top priority this election,” Ballenger said in an interview Friday. “Hopefully good things come from that.”

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at

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