CASTLE ROCK – The liberal organizations bankrolling four union-backed Douglas County school board candidates are rolling in the big guns in a late push to seize control of the school district from conservatives.
A senior strategist for Barack Obama’s campaign is now actively organizing ground game and other operations for the four union candidates in Douglas County – Bill Hodges, Ronda Scholting, Barbra Chase and Julie Keim.
Craig Hughes, who made his name in Colorado after crafting Senator Michael Bennett’s cut-throat campaign strategy that helped Bennett win a comeback victory over Weld County D.A. Ken Buck in 2010, is now the mover and shaker organizing the effort to elect the four union candidates, public documents show.
An ad on Craigslist in Denver advertises paid canvassing jobs with Hughes’ firm Hilltop Public Solutions to help the union slate. According to Hilltop’s website, Hughes manages their Colorado operations.
The ad seeks “part-time canvassers to knock on doors in Douglas County, supporting progressive school board candidates trying to improve the quality of a public school education.” The job pays $12/hour with the possibility of “performance and/or referral bonuses.”
It’s not clear what organization is paying Hilltop to recruit paid canvassers, as financial reports have not been completed for independent expenditure committees registered to work on the school board race. Hilltop Public Affairs and Craig Hughes did not respond to inquiries as to who was paying them.
It’s likely that the local teachers union, Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) – an AFL-CIO affiliate – is funding the paid canvassing effort. Last month, when DCFT endorsed the union slate, Our Colorado News reported “the organization will not contribute money to candidates’ campaigns, union officials said, but will spend an undetermined amount of money on election-related activities.”
Ronda Scholting and Barbra Chase denied any knowledge of the Obama adviser’s efforts to assist their campaigns, citing laws about coordination.
“The canvassers working for my campaign are volunteers,” Scholting said in an email to The Observer.
“We can’t control that… and if that’s the case it makes me sad,” said Chase, referencing Hilltop’s hiring of out-of-county paid canvassers.
Bill Hodges and Julie Keim did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2012, Hughes was senior strategist for the Obama campaign in Colorado, reprising the same role he held in 2008. According to his bio on Hilltop Public Solution’s website, Hughes was also a campaign staffer on the Clinton/Gore campaigns in 1992 and 1996.
The firm Hilltop Solutions is lead by Nicholas Baldick, who ran the 2004 presidential campaign of scandal-plagued former U.S. Senator John Edwards.
Hilltop is also advising liberal CU Regent candidate Linda Shoemaker in the 2nd Congressional District, for which it has been paid $6,000 already according to Secretary of State Records.