Checking Ben$on: The CU Regent Race’s Backstory

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

With Election Day finally upon us, a race that’s been simmering in the background for most of this election season could loom large for the future of one of Colorado’s foremost Republican elder statesmen–as the Denver Post’s Monte Whaley reported last week:

Heated political partisanship in Colorado is reaching into the race for the at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, changing a usually tame contest into one attracting big money and loud rhetoric.

The statewide election could change the face of the nine-member board, putting it in the hands of a Democratic majority for the first time in nearly 40 years. Republican Heidi Ganahl and her allies say if the Democrats take over, it could mean the end of the tenure of Bruce Benson, a Republican who became CU president in 2008.

All that has made a historically staid run for a Board of Regent seat suddenly a hot commodity, said John Straayer, a Colorado State University political science professor and longtime political observer of Colorado elections.

“Maybe it’s because it’s a statewide race and maybe people are so sick and tired of putting their money in other bigger races,” Straayer said. “Or maybe it’s because we’ve come to a point where it’s one tribe against another, Democrat against Republican, and we are going after each other.”

The at-large CU Regent position is sometimes referred to as “the biggest statewide race you’ve never heard of,” running under the radar to other bigger-name contests higher up the ballot. But this year, the race could tip control of the University of Colorado Board of Regents to Democrats, and the well-known Alice Madden has a leg up on Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl.

This has made the significant wing of the Republican Party loyal to CU President Bruce Benson rather nervous.

We’d say Benson, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate and longtime major donor, has less to fear from Madden winning this election than Republicans are telling voters right now. With that said, Benson’s tenure has seen more than its share of political controversy–much of it a result of Benson’s obsession with “ideological diversity” on the CU campus, criticized by his opponents as “conservative affirmative action.” Benson’s creation of a visiting professorship for “conservative thought” has had mixed results at best, and the school came under fire last year after students protested their university being used as a backdrop for Republican presidential candidates while excluding them from the mostly-empty debate venue.

With Democrats in narrow control of the CU Board of Regents, what you might see from Benson and his ideological conservative agenda at the state’s flagship university is a little more restraint.

And that doesn’t sound so bad.

4 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Republican 36 says:

    I voted for Alice Madden but I don't think President Benson deserves the criticism contained in this thread.

    First and foremost, Mr. Benson promised when he was named President of CU that he would not raise money for the Republican Party or its candidates. That was a major blow to the Republican fundraising effort in Colorado since he had been the most prolific fundraiser the party had. Mr. Benson has kept that promise. If anything, that promise and his fulfilling it has done great damage to the Colorado Republican Party. To this day, he has kept partisan politics out of his presidency. Attempting to place a veneer of partisanship on his tenure at CU is unfair and certainly undeserved.

    Second, establishing a professorship for conservative thought is, at best, a very minor event. Anyone who knows Bruce Benson knows that he is anything but a right-wing crazy. He has no use for the so called social conservatives and opposed them within the party for years before he became President of CU. The way CU handled the presidential debate certainly can be criticized but that too was a minor glitch and certainly shouldn't overshadow Mr. Benson's accomplishments.

    Third, he has done a good job as president of the university, in large part, because he dearly loves CU and wants only the best for his alma mater.

    Overall, his tenure deserves praise, including from the public and the Board of Regents.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Benson has his defenders and his detractors. You are obviously the former.

      I for one do not approve of Benson's moves to conservatize CU, and would welcome some balance on the board to reel him in.

      I'm glad you voted for Alice.

  2. bullshit! says:

    Go Alice Madden! This is an election that needs to be won.

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