Nic Garcia writes at Chalkbeat Colorado about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston’s eye-popping first quarter of fundraising–a big haul of money that, under the hood, raises many questions even as the money helps make Johnston a contender:
Nearly 70 percent of the money donated to former state Sen. Michael Johnston’s gubernatorial bid in the first quarter of 2017 came from outside Colorado, records show.
The list of out-of-state donors includes several supporters of the national education reform movement.
They include Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; Howard Wolfson, director of education at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York; and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, the program that gave Johnston his start as an educator.
Johnston raised $632,834 between Jan. 1 and March 31, his campaign reported to the Secretary of State. Of that, $445,389 came from outside Colorado.
What you’re seeing here is the product of Johnston’s leadership in the Colorado legislature on the issue of education reform. As a former teacher and school principal, education has always been central to his campaign message, and left-trending education reformers have been very well funded indeed by wealthy philanthropists. It’s important to note that we’re not talking so much about the far-right Betsy DeVos wing of education reform, with its emphasis on “freedom” for religious schooling and homeschooling–well beyond Johnston’s record of support for school innovation and teacher accountability.
Unfortunately for former Sen. Johnston, the legacy of his “landmark” teacher accountability legislation, SB10-191 has been almost entirely negative for the overwhelming majority of Colorado teachers. Even teachers who rate highly under the new law complain it has forced them to change their teaching style and subject matter to meet arbitrary benchmarks. SB10-191 is at least in part responsible for the growing shortage of teachers in Colorado, with less onerous opportunities available to the declining number of licensed teacher graduates elsewhere.
About 10 percent of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s first-quarter campaign donations in 2010 came from outside Colorado, records show. Less than 1 percent of former Gov. Bill Ritter’s first quarter donations in 2005 were from out of state.
Clearly, by historical standards Johnston’s lopsided majority of out-of-state donors is very unusual. It suggests that Johnston’s real base of support in Colorado is quite limited, and that in turn could well limit his ability to sustain his very high initial fundraising. Especially in a Democratic primary, we just don’t see an education reform-based single issue campaign gaining traction.
And that appears to be Johnston’s sole claim to fame and fortune.