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$800,000 school board races shatter all records

A wealthy Denver businessman and leading advocate of private school vouchers provided two-thirds of the direct campaign contributions garnered by three unsuccessful pro-voucher candidates in Tuesday's Colorado Springs School District 11 elections.

Meanwhile, three outside interest groups that gave major backing to the same candidates, Bob Lathen, Carla Albers and Reginald Perry, have refused to disclose their spending or their funding sources.

Records available to date indicate that candidates and interest groups spent nearly $800,000 on the elections in school districts 2 and 11, according to a tally by the Independent. The money was used to mail fliers and to pay for TV and radio advertising. The groups also groomed candidates in "consulting" sessions.

The true amount spent probably is far higher than $800,000. El Paso County officials expect one last round of campaign reports from candidates on Dec. 1, and some campaign groups have refused to disclose their finances.

In any case, the total will far eclipse the record-shattering $150,000 spent in the 2003 D-11 election, in which a group of rich donors supported four candidates they thought would advance private-school vouchers in the district.

This year, three Denver-based groups All Children Matter-Colorado, Parents Targeting Achievement and Independant [sic] Voters for Equality Education and Opportunity for Children backed Perry, Albers and Lathen in D-11, along with Cindee Will and Deborah Hendrix in D-2. On Tuesday, Hendrix won a seat on the board; Will was unsuccessful in her bid.

Meanwhile, labor unions joined a Colorado Springs-based interest group to amass hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of John Gudvangen, Tami Hasling and Sandra Mann in D-11, and Richard Price and Linda Pugh in D-2. The five campaigned on a platform of protecting public schools from privateers; all five of them won.

Denver oilman Alex Cranberg, one of the biggest contributors to pro-voucher candidates in 2003, gave about 67 percent of the combined $68,229 raised by Perry, Albers and Lathen this year. Cranberg spent most of the money on mailings and consulting.

Cranberg also has contributed heavily to All Children Matter-Colorado's parent organization, Michigan-based All Children Matter Inc. The group has spent millions of dollars to elect voucher-friendly candidates across the nation.

Perry and Albers also received money from local developer Steve Schuck, who organized the attempted 2003 takeover of the D-11 school board. Schuck gave them $8,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Gudvangen, Hasling and Mann all accepted money from the state teachers' union, and Gudvangen and Hasling received consulting from Progressive Majority, a left-wing group based in Washington, D.C.

In addition, four local political committees that campaigned for candidates spent at least $24,000 combined -- $21,000 of it raised by Citizens to Preserve Public Education, which supported Gudvangen, Hasling and Mann.

However, the truly big money came from at least four organizations allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts. By law, these groups aren't required to file campaign-finance reports prior to an election in odd-numbered years, but one group filed anyway: Rally in Support of Education, or RISE.

RISE, which backed Gudvangen, Hasling and Mann, raised at least $480,000, according to recent reports. All the money came from a handful of outside interests, including the state teachers union and software mogul and gay-rights advocate Tim Gill, of Denver.

Bob Gardner, a spokesman for All Children Matter-Colorado, said earlier this week that his group had raised $100,000, according to the Gazette. Gardner did not return a call from the Independent.

-- Michael de Yoanna

and Terje Langeland

Referendum C (statewide)

Yes 52%

No 48%

Referendum D (statewide)

Yes 49.3%

No 50.7%

Harrison School District 2

Board of Directors (three winners)

Linda Pugh 20.89%

Richard L. Price 19.65%

Deborah L. Hendrix 16.60%

Colorado Springs

School District 11

Board of Directors (three winners)

Sandra Mann 21.14%

Tami Hasling 18.22%

John Gudvangen 17.27%

3B: D-11 repayment of bonds

Yes 53.18%

No 46.82%

Falcon School District 49

Board of Directors (three winners)

Anna Bartha 14.17%

Amy McClelland 13.53%

Dave Stark 11.01%

D-49 tax increase for schools

Yes 53.58%

No 46.42%

Fountain Mayor

Jeri C. Howells 54%

For more results, go to:

elpasoelections.com/2005coordinat ed/results-text.html

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