Late returns show incumbent Republican Debora Scheffel narrowly leading in a much-watched State Board of Education race, effectively maintaining the status quo of the board.
Democrat Rebecca McClellan, a former city councilwoman in Centennial, is challenging Scheffel, a career educator, for a chance to represent the diverse 6th Congressional District on the board.
Results updated after midnight on Wednesday showed Scheffel with about a 1 point lead. A mandatory recount is triggered if the difference between the two candidates is a half of percentage point or less.
McClellan outdid Scheffel in fundraising, records show. And McClellan had the support of an independent political committee linked to the nonprofit Democrats for Education Reform that sent mailers to voters’ home and ran ads in local newspapers on McClellan’s behalf.
With Scheffel ahead, Republicans will hold a one-vote majority on the seven-member state board. Democrats had hoped a McClellan victory could tip the balance of power.
In other parts of the state, incumbent Republicans Steve Durham of Colorado Springs and Joyce Rankin of Carbondale handily beat their opponents. Durham is the board’s chairman. Both Durham and Rankin were first appointed to their seats by vacancy committees.
The state board is responsible for developing rules and regulations connected to education legislation, hiring an education commissioner, hearing appeals on charter school decisions and setting rules surrounding teacher licensing.
The board next year will also be responsible for signing off on the state’s federally required education plan that spells out how it will use federal tax dollars to bolster low-income schools. And the board must also oversee the state’s review of education standards and decide how to improve the Colorado’s lowest performing schools.
The board’s influence on the state’s schools was not weighing on voters’ minds outside a polling place Tuesday in Centennial near Eaglecrest High School. Many voters said they either voted along party lines or could not remember who they voted for.
Jeff Levesque, a registered Republican, said he voted for Scheffel because Republicans “have less problems.”
Meanwhile, Isabel McKenzie, a registered Democrat, said she voted for McClellan because she thought she would be more moderate.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.