School Busses

The 10-candidate Denver school board election has a new fundraising frontrunner: Alexis Menocal Harrigan, who used to work in government affairs for the district.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, which show contributions and spending through June, Menocal Harrigan raised $21,768 since entering the race two months ago.

The second-highest fundraising total — $20,902 — belongs to one of her opponents, Tay Anderson, who entered the race long before any other candidate 11 months ago.

Menocal Harrigan and Anderson, who works as a restorative practices coordinator at Denver’s North High School, are running at large. That means they’ll have to raise a lot of money to reach voters across Denver. The third candidate in that race, North High teacher Anna DeWitt, has raised $19,635, much of it from a single donor.

Three seats on the seven-member Denver school board are up for grabs on Nov. 5. Ten candidates are running, though the field could grow. Candidates have until Aug. 30 to declare. No incumbents are running for re-election.

It’s an important election that will help determine the future direction of Denver Public Schools, Colorado’s largest school district at nearly 93,000 students. Nationally known for its adherence to education reform policies, the district has faced backlash to controversial decisions such as closing or replacing low-performing schools, and has recently softened its approach on that issue.

The money raised by candidates represents just a portion of what will be spent on this election. Traditionally, a range of advocacy groups associated with either education reform or the teachers union has also spent money to support or attack certain candidates.

In addition to the at-large race, candidates are competing this year to win seats representing southeast and northwest Denver. All of Denver’s 471,000 registered voters can vote in the at-large race, but only voters who live in either southeast or northwest Denver can vote in the regional races.

Denver’s biennial school board elections have for years been a battle between candidates who agree with the district’s direction and others who don’t. While it’s still early in the race, it can be telling to look at who is donating to the candidates’ campaigns.

For instance, former and current board members who helped shape the district’s direction have donated to Menocal Harrigan in the at-large race, nonprofit executive director Diana Romero Campbell in the southeast race, and longtime parent volunteer Tony Curcio in the northwest race.

Below, we break down how much each of the 10 candidates has raised and spent as of June 26, as well as notable contributions to each of their campaigns.

District 1, southeast Denver

Scott Baldermann

Entered the race: April 29

Total raised: $10,785

Total spent: $7,523.63

Notable contributions: Baldermann is his own biggest donor, giving $8,500 to himself.

Diana Romero Campbell

Entered the race: June 11

Total raised: $5,175 plus a $3,500 loan to herself

Total spent: $3,866.10

Notable contributions: School board President Anne Rowe, who holds the District 1 seat but is barred by term limits from running again, gave $250. School board Vice President Barbara O’Brien gave $100. Businessman Marco Abarca, who has supported pro-reform candidates in the past, gave $2,500. At-large candidate Alexis Menocal Harrigan gave $25.

Radhika Nath

Entered the race: June 10

Total raised: $7,089

Total spent: $1,375

Notable contributions: She collected 114 donations in just two weeks in June, which is the most of any candidate in the District 1 race. Her biggest donation was $1,400 from herself.

Kristi Leech

Entered the race: May 16

Total raised: $261.24

Total spent: $87.23

Notable contributions: Leech is her own biggest donor, giving $186.24 to herself.

District 5, northwest Denver

Brad Laurvick

Entered the race: May 18

Total raised: $20,375

Total spent: $3,105.28

Notable contributions: He collected 52 donations in the most recent filing period in June, the most of any candidate in the District 5 race. His biggest donor gave $2,000.

Tony Curcio

Entered the race: May 14

Total raised: $8,660

Total spent: $6,790.51

Notable contributions: School board member Lisa Flores, who represents District 5 but is not running for re-election, gave $500. School board Vice President Barbara O’Brien gave $100. Businessman Marco Abarca, who has supported pro-reform candidates in the past, gave $2,500.

Julie Bañuelos

Entered the race: February 27

Total raised: $2,304

Total spent: $862.43

Notable contributions: Christina Medina, a Denver teacher and former vice president of the teachers union, gave $25. About half of Bañuelos’ donors in June were teachers.

At large

Alexis Menocal Harrigan

Entered the race: May 2

Total raised: $21,768

Total spent: $10,274.79

Notable contributions: School board member Angela Cobián gave $100. Former Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran gave $100. Another former speaker of the House, Terrance Carroll, who previously worked as an attorney for Denver Public Schools, gave $100. City Councilwoman Kendra Black gave $250. Former school board member Theresa Peña gave $150. Khadija Haynes, sister of school board member Happy Haynes, gave $100.

Tay Anderson

Entered the race: August 13, 2018

Total raised: $20,902.09

Total spent: $11,970.31

Notable contributions: Anderson has been raising money since last August and has by far the most individual donors in the at-large race, including many active members of a Facebook group dedicated to “flipping the board” in November. Joyce Brooks of the NAACP’s Denver branch gave $300. District 1 candidate Scott Baldermann gave $1,000.

Anna DeWitt

Entered the race: March 29

Total raised: $19,635

Total spent: $400

Notable contributions: She collected just seven donations in June. Her biggest donor, a retired teacher and military officer named Doug DeWitt, has given a total of $14,250.

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here.  

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