Americans For Prosperity-Colorado, the well-funded conservative message group tied to the Koch Brothers empire of political advocacy organizations, is launching a campaign that’s fairly unusual at first glance–praising Democrats for a bill passed this year on charter school funding:
Americans for Prosperity Colorado launched a “Thank you” ad campaign, acknowledging state legislators from both sides of the aisle in standing up for taxpayers and equal funding for schools. State director, Jesse Mallory, asserts, “As a nonpartisan organization, we are pleased to work across the aisle to promote freedom for all Coloradans. Today we would like to recognize and thank a number of state legislators for their courage to stand up for taxpayers and promote equalized funding for all public schools.”
Legislators being thanked for co-sponsoring legislation to equalize funding for charter schools include: Senator Angela Williams, Representative Brittany Pettersen, Senator Own Hill and Representative Lang Sias. Senator Tim Neville, Senator Jack Tate, Senator Beth Martinez-Humenik, Senator Chris Holbert and Representative Patrick Neville are being thanked for standing up for taxpayers.
The legislation in question, House Bill 17-1375, was the result of a compromise principally brokered between House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate leadership–a compromise that included the death of another bill to “equalize” charter school funding sponsored by Republicans in that chamber. It’s important to note that the Colorado Education Association, which opposed the Republican bill, was neutral on HB17-1375–and it passed with broad bipartisan support.
Obviously charter school funding remains a divisive point among Democrats, and there’s plenty of disagreement over this bill even after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law. It’s perfectly reasonable for it to be a subject of debate in the upcoming CD-7 primary between Jefferson County public school teacher Sen. Andy Kerr and Rep. Brittany Pettersen. Sen. Kerr is the former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has solid support from parent and teacher groups in the district, and opposed HB17-1375. Pettersen, as readers will recall, was one of the principal organizers of the landmark 2015 recall campaign against the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board. Given the lingering hard feelings over the 2015 recall, it’s a safe bet that AFP is not looking to benefit Pettersen by “thanking” her for this bill. Democratic primary voters in CD-7 know AFP very well, and may well figure out the reverse psychology at work without any help.
With that said, we have no interest in shielding any candidate from legitimate criticism in the course of what’s expected to be a hard-fought but (hopefully) amicable primary. CD-7 Democrats have a choice between several great contenders to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and here’s an issue we expect will be vigorously debated.
Whoever they choose, Democratic voters are best off making the choice without the Koch Brothers living rent-free in their heads.