Douglas County is one of the few reliable bastions of red still standing in blue-as-a-bad-bruise Colorado. It’s one of the largest counties too; a happy place of families, kids on bikes, and lots of dogs about 45 minutes southeast of the Denver hellhole. The three county commissioners, elected county officials like Sheriff and Clerk, three state senators and three out of four statehouse representatives are all Republican.
But somehow the Douglas County School Board (DCSB) for years before Covid was dominated by hardline wokesters. During the pandemic, they shut down the schools, shut up the parents, mandated much-hated masks, and fed students CRT and lgbtq ideology, the usual leftist casserole of claptrap. Then finally two years ago the voters won a slim majority Republican school board, having painfully learned that there’s no such thing anymore as a non-partisan race even though that’s how this election is billed. The school district is the third largest in Colorado with over 63,000 students in 90 schools; 20% are innovative parent-led public charter schools. The District has a stellar reputation with school choice and a nearly 90% graduation rate.
This last election, we had three terrific long-time Republicans with years of experience running for school board in a county of 350,000 citizens with 95,000 Registered Republicans, 50,000 registered Democrats and 125,000 Unaffiliated. Winning three board seats should have been an easy lift. But an ugly complication surfaced. Hefty new school funding for the District was also on the ballot, broken into two voter questions: 5a, a funding measure to increase teacher and staff salaries; and 5b, a bond issue to build three new schools in the growing county and fund maintenance for the District’s 90 aging school buildings. Voters would decide the funding issues separately.
But the Douglas County Republican Party wrapped the funding issue like a noose around the necks of the three candidates who supported it. The Party’s strategy for the election was a novel one: they refused to support three solid Republican, eminently electable school board candidates because those candidates favored 5a and 5b. Instead, they focused solely on promoting the only candidate who stood solidly against the school funding measures, whose campaign battle cry was “burn it all down!” meaning the public school system itself. The Party’s favoritism for the pyro candidate and its passage of a Resolution (proposed by that same candidate!) condemning the new school taxes led to its cancelling the other three Conservative Republican candidates, just as the left notoriously cancels all Conservative voices. This is how we lose; by subjecting candidates to purity tests instead of just voting for solid well-qualified Republicans.
The Party elite (the officers and the majority of the 43 voting District Captains) violated the primary purpose of the Douglas County Republicans, clearly stated in the bylaws: “The primary purpose of this organization shall be to elect Republican candidates to office…” (Article II, Section II) Not - “the Party shall elect only candidates who oppose school funding.” Not “the Party shall elect only candidates they like best.” Not even that the Party shall elect only candidates that pass the “no taxes” purity test that the Party approved. They also violated the most stunningly obvious rule of politics: If you don’t promote and vote for your Party’s candidates, you’re helping the other side win.
Like the Biden family refusing to acknowledge Hunter’s inconvenient young daughter, the Republican Party family behaved in this election like three of its candidates simply didn’t exist. They spent $7,000 of the Party’s meager funds on a campaign mailer promoting only the one no-taxes candidate. They listed only that person’s name on the Douglas County Republicans website under “School Board Candidates” so when thousands of right-leaning Unaffilateds and registered Republicans visited the page to learn which candidates to vote for in this “nonpartisan” race, they saw only Mr. Pyro’s name, not the three other Republicans that would appear on the ballot.
The Party’s Get Out the Vote phone script touted only the anti-tax candidate and never mentioned the other three Republicans. For weeks before the election, a tsunami of operatives swarmed the many Douglas County Republican and Conservative Facebook pages, boosting the sole “endorsed” candidate, while undermining and defaming the three well-qualified pro-bond/mill levy candidates. All this was manipulated behind the scenes by a virulently anti-tax former state senator who has become locally notorious for his more-conservative-than-thou purity tests. He even refused to support the Party’s senatorial nominee in the last election, condemning him as Insufficiently Conservative.
Intra Party squabbles defeat Republicans. Predictably, all four Republican candidates went down in a hail of votes. And irony of ironies – the pyro anti-tax candidate was the biggest loser, while the 5a tax proposal won. In making “no more taxes” instead of electing Republicans the centerpiece of the election, the Party proved that an obsession with a single divisive issue spells disaster. They squandered all their moral and political capital on a losing candidate and a losing position on school funding.
And they learned nothing. In a masterpiece of cover-your-derriere, the Party Chairman issued a press release blaming the three candidates for failing to obtain the Party’s endorsement, although the Party itself had rigged the process by setting up the no-taxes pre-condition. Scolded the Chairman, “I hope Republicans learn an important lesson from this cycle thatignoring and shunning the Republican Party will always be a recipe for disaster.” Hypocritical is too mild a word; the Party itself had shamefully shunned and sabotaged its three candidates, orchestrating its own election debacle.
In elevating their “no taxes principle” above and beyond the vastly more critical task of electing Republicans and making it a pre-condition of their endorsement, the Party proved an obsession with a single divisive issue leads to disaster. Along the way, they branded the pro-tax Republicans “unprincipled” RINOS, and “Establishment,” familiar labels Republicans use to defame each other and lose elections. The purist issue varies from state to state and election to election – it may be abortion, taxes, school funding – whatever. Republicans choose sides and form the typical circular firing squad. Democrats are smarter. They bury their hatchets, fall in line and vote for fellow Democrats, never mind their doctrinal differences.
How do Republicans not realize that the only way to advance their precious principles is to elect more Republicans? This seems a simple concept. But In Douglas County the Party helped elect three dedicated wokesters who can’t wait to trample those Conservative values underfoot. Even though the Republicans on the school board are not yet outnumbered, the cluelessness of the Party foretells more calamity. The Party can continue to insist on their destructive purity tests or keep their eyes on the prize: retaining our DCSB Republican majority. This is a teachable moment - but are these people even teachable? We’ll find out at the next school board election if their purist myopia results in the takeover of a new radical left board that will bring back the woke indoctrination so harmful to our children.
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado-based journalist whose work has appeared in Townhall, American Thinker, The Washington Times, The Federalist, Complete Colorado and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter (X) @joyoverbeck1