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Jefferson County School Board Recall Most Watched Local Election In Nation

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - The presidential election is still a year away but voters do get a say on many other races on Election Day in Colorado which is Tuesday.

In Jefferson County an election to recall three school board members will be closely watched because it could impact school districts around the country. That's why it's drawing national attention and money.

(credit: CBS)

The two sides have dropped more than $1 million on door hangers, mailers and TV ads. And on the eve of the election both sides are blanketing neighborhoods in hopes of swaying last-minute voters.

Ballotpedia has listed the Jefferson County School Board recall as the most watched local election in the country. Although attention has been focused on a proposed curriculum review that some called censorship, far more is riding on the outcome, including the relevance of teachers unions, pay for performance and equal funding for charter schools.

Because the battle is playing out in the biggest swing county in Colorado, a swing state, its become a proxy for similar reforms nationwide.

"Which is, should local school districts start to implement reforms like paying teachers by merit, funding schools without going into debt, funding kids equally no matter what public school they go to?" recall opponent John Caldera said. "These are real challenges in education. I think those are pretty simple questions. I think the people of Jefferson County, if they understood what policies are at stake, would overwhelmingly vote to retain these board members."

Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk jefferson county school board recall
Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk (credit: CBS)

"I'm not against pay for performance and I'm not against charters and I don't really know anybody who is," recall supporter Tina Gurdikian said. "It's just a matter of how this board is implementing those reforms and the disrespect that they're showing to the community as whole when they're talking about these things."

As of Monday morning about 32 percent of registered voters had turned in their ballots in Jefferson County with nearly 10,000 more Republicans voting than Democrats. The last coordinated off-year election like this saw 43 percent turnout.

Those who haven't voted have some reading to do. On the ballot each side is able to make claims which aren't vetted for accuracy. Those who vote to recall a board member can also vote for a successor.

In addition to the three embattled board members two seats are up for grabs.

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