The major lesson is that backing Democrats was more likely to put a group on the winning side.
The election saw Democrats retake control of the state House with a 37-28 margin while Democrats held their 20-15 majority in the Senate.
Education News Colorado reviewed 14 legislative contests in which at least two education-related groups – one union-affiliated and one “reform” – endorsed and/or contributed to candidates.
The groups included the American Federation of Teachers, Democrats for Education Reform, the Colorado Education Association and its local affiliates, and Stand for Children.
Here’s the tale of the tape:
- AFT: Backed 14 candidates, 12 won
- DFER: Backed nine candidates, seven won
- CEA et al: Backed 13 candidates, 11 won
- Stand: Backed 11 candidates, five won (all five supported Republicans lost, plus one Democrat)
The first three groups lost their bets in two hotly contested southern Colorado races where Republicans came out on top, House District 47 and Senate District 35. Stand also backed the Democrat in the latter district.
The 14 races present only a partial picture of involvement by education groups in legislative elections. The AFT and CEA and its affiliates contributed to Democratic candidates in additional races around the state. The CEA and related local groups between them contributed to almost every Democratic candidate, continuing a pattern that is decades old.
Teachers’ unions are substantial contributors to Democrats. But given heavy involvement by interest groups of all types in legislative races, it’s impossible to isolate the impact of education group endorsements and contributions on individual races.
Another important factor in legislative races is spending by 527 and independent expenditure committees. Unions and some reform groups contribute to those committees, which don’t have to report their spending by race. Outside committees allied with the Democratic Party have been a major player in state elections since 2004.
A full picture of 2012 legislative race spending won’t be available until after Dec. 6, when campaign and advocacy committees have to file their final reports with the secretary of state’s office.