DENVER — Since Friday, more than 20,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the recall of four conservative members of the Douglas County school board, after they voted to fire Superintendent Corey Wise.
The effort, which couldn’t even be initiated until late May under state law, would be an uphill battle in a conservative county that elected those four members each by margins of more than 10,000 votes last year.
“Arguably it’s a little more challenging to remove conservative or right learning members of the Douglas County School Board because Douglas County does lean Republican,” said David Flaherty, the CEO of right-leaning Colorado polling firm Magellan Strategies.
Though it’s not impossible, Flaherty says, pointing to the fact that the school board’s history.
“Clearly progressive center left candidates in Douglas County have been successful before in gaining a majority of the board,” he said.
“I think the bright spot for democrat and progressive organization is that they have had success in Douglas County in a different environment but still had success in gaining a majority.”
The last major recall on a school board in the Denver metro area happened in 2015, when three conservative leaning members were successfully recalled and replaced by Democratic candidates two years after they were elected.
“There was enough belief and energy out there that the conservative members of the school board were out of touch with the will of parents and of voters in general in Jefferson County,” Flaherty said.
But there are differences between this current anger directed at the Douglas County School board and the movement that removed those board members in Jefferson County, Flaherty said. First, the political landscape has changed dramatically since 2015, with more focus on a “culture war” that’s galvanized a lot of Republicans.
Second, the issues are slightly different.
“What really triggered Jeffco was a change in the curriculum that was very alarming to center left folks,” Flaherty said.
“In Douglas County, it’s about the removal of a superintendent for no reason necessarily. I don’t know if that’s going to have the same kind of emotional heft, if you will.”
Any effort to recall a school board member in Douglas County would have to collect 15,000 signatures from registered voters in the county. If that effort was successful, the recall election would likely fall on November’s general election ballot.
“There’s a lot of noise there to do that and that can be difficult,” Flaherty said.