Republican’s lead in State Board of Education race narrows, possible recount looms

A closely-watched race that will determine partisan control of the Colorado State Board of Education has grown even tighter as results continue to trickle in, making an automatic recount all the more likely.

Rebecca McClellan, a candidate for the State Board of Education, greets a participant at a forum in Aurora. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)
Rebecca McClellan, a candidate for the State Board of Education, greets a participant at a forum in Aurora. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)
Rebecca McClellan, a candidate for the State Board of Education, greets a participant at a forum in Aurora. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)

By Nicholas GarciaChalkbeat 

A closely-watched race that will determine partisan control of the Colorado State Board of Education has grown even tighter as results continue to trickle in, making an automatic recount all the more likely.

Over the past two days, incumbent Republican Debora Scheffel’s lead over Democratic Rebecca McClellan has narrowed. As of Friday morning, Scheffel led just by just 294 voters out of 349,470 ballots counted, according to state officials.

That is close enough to trigger a recount.

McClellan has trailed since Election Night has held off on conceding the race, pointing to thousands of ballots that have yet to be tallied in two counties that make up the congressional district she would represent on the board.

As of Thursday morning, about 8,000 ballots in Arapahoe County and about 9,000 in Adams County still had to be counted, officials said. How many of those ballots remain to be counted was not immediately clear Friday morning. County officials said they had hoped to finish counting on Thursday, so it is possible that all the votes have been tallied.

The person who holds the seat represents voters in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, which includes portions of Arapahoe and Adams counties, as well as a small portion of Douglas County.

Some voters in those counties live in other congressional districts. For example, voters in Adams could live in either the 4th, 6th or 7th district.

The Scheffel-McClellan contest is far tighter than the headline matchup in the 6th Congressional District that pit incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman against Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll. Coffman won re-election by 9 percentage points. The current margin separating Scheffel and McClellan is less than 1 percent.

For a recount to happen, the difference between the candidates must be less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the winner’s total vote count, according to state law. The current count is within that

“I think this race is a better reflection of the mix in the district,” said McClellan, who raised more money than Scheffel and had the support of a political committee tied to the nonprofit Democrats for Education Reform.

About 3,000 votes in Douglas County have also not been counted. But those votes won’t be included in the county’s total until after Nov. 16, said Merlin Klotz, Douglas County’s clerk. Those ballots have been set aside because of irregularities. Voters have eight days to address those irregularities in order for their vote to be counted.

Klotz said he doubted those 3,000 ballots could sway the race because of how few many Douglas County voters live in the 6th district.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.