DENVER – It seems that even when Republicans win an election in Colorado, they manage to lose. At least, that’s what appears to have happened on the University of Colorado’s elected Board of Regents last week, when a Democrat was re-elected chairman – despite the fact that the GOP holds five of the seats on the nine member board.
So how did Michael Carrigan, a Democrat regent who represents the heavily Democratic, Denver-based 1st Congressional district, get elected to lead a Republican-majority board of regents?
Media reports suggest that two of the Republican regents – Jim Geddes of Sedalia and board vice-chairman Sue Sharkey of Windsor – likely abstained during the vote to elect a chairman, effectively handing the chairmanship to Carrigan who bested Republican Steve Bosley of Broomfield on a 4-3 secret ballot vote.
The other three Republican regents — Bosley, Glen Gallegos of Grand Junction and Kyle Hybl of Colorado Springs — attempted to replace the secret ballot with a roll call vote (thus allowing the public to see how each regent voted). However, that effort was defeated 5-3, with Sharkey and Geddes siding with Democrats to keep the vote secret, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.
A similar situation occurred in 2012, when Carrigan was first elected Chair of the Republican-dominated board, with one member abstaining that time. Conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics blasted the results at the time, asking “Why bother having elections if the conservative majority is just going to hand over the keys afterwards?”
Carrigan has been an outspoken advocate for a range of liberal causes while a regent, including banning guns on campus, discounted tuition for illegal immigrants and large administrative pay raises for certain CU officials against a backdrop of rising tuition costs.
So when a Republican-controlled Board of Regents elevated Carrigan to the governing panel’s top slot, it left many Republicans scratching their heads.
Neither Sharkey and Geddes nor Hybl and Gallegos responded to a request for comment.
Reached Monday, Bosley declined to directly address the result of the two votes, which effectively handed control of the majority-Republican board agenda to a Democrat.
“The elections are over and we continue to have many challenges at CU,” Bosley said in an email to The Observer. “I will work for what is best for CU, and can give whatever time is required and asked of me.”
Some conservatives weren’t as diplomatic.
“It is outrageous that conservative voters elected these Regents and they handed the leadership of the board over to a liberal,” said Patrick Davis of the Liberty Alliance, a conservative group dedicated to reducing the size and scope of government.
“Liberal Democrats have failed to lead in the legislature and in the Governor’s office,” Davis added. “What would make them think a liberal Democrat could lead the Board of Regents?”
Others, like former GOP Senate President John Andrews, were more circumspect.
“The abstentions signal that our five GOP regents need to get on the same page about what a truly conservative course of governance for CU would look like,” said Andrews. “I’m guessing that a couple of them prefer not to see a status-quo president and administrators routinely enabled by a rubber-stamp board.”
“Maybe they think a Carrigan vs. [CU President Bruce] Benson face-off will shake things up in a more beneficial way than a Bosley plus Benson regime would have done,” Andrews concluded. “Interesting times ahead at Boulder.”