Hillsboro school board races viewed through campaign finance
The May 18 special district elections are coming up, voters are already mailing in their ballots, and candidates running for the Hillsboro School District board of directors are trying to sway those who remain undecided.
With four contested races this year, there's a possibility the makeup of the board will look much different come fall.
Four candidates, including three challengers to incumbents, are being backed by the Hillsboro advocacy group Communities for Sensible Schools, creating a unified effort to bring in a new majority on the board, which is composed of seven members.
The group's messaging frequently criticizes the current board's pace of fully bringing all students back from distance learning for in-person education during the pandemic, among other policy positions.
According to its website, members of the group also want to "work more closely with parents in the development of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) and a robust opt-out."
Campaign contributions to the four candidates backed by Communities for Sensible Schools have almost exclusively come from a political action committee formed by the group, according to state campaign finance records.
The committee's largest donor and co-director is Bart Rask, an orthopedic surgeon who mounted two unsuccessful campaigns for the school board in 2015 and 2019 and initially planned to run again this year before backing out.
Rask has contributed $30,000 to the Communities for Sensible Schools PAC so far. The committee has received a total of $50,845 in cash and in-kind contributions and spent $44,037.
When taken individually, in all but one race, candidates backed by Communities for Sensible Schools have raised less than their opponents, whose campaign contributions have largely come from individuals and political action committees formed by liberal-leaning groups.
In Oregon, school board races are officially nonpartisan.
The four candidates backed by Communities for Sensible Schools are Joe Everton, running for Position 1; Ben Wolfe, Position 2; Mary Phelps, Position 3; and Monique Ward, Position 6.
They will take on board chair Erika Lopez, serving in Position 1; Mark Watson, Position 2; Nancy Thomas, a newcomer running for Position 3; and Jaci Spross, Position 6.
Martin Granum, who currently represents Position 3, is not seeking a new term.
Lopez leads all other candidates when it comes to campaign contributions.
She has received $10,290 in cash contributions, according to campaign finance information from the Oregon secretary of state's office as of Monday, May 3. She was also reimbursed $1,521 by the political action committees of Watson and Spross for shared mailer costs.
Lopez has spent $4,634, including $2,282 in reimbursable shared mailer costs.
She is sitting on $2,245 in cash on hand, after accounting for an outstanding personal expenditure of $4,923.
The largest contributions Lopez has received have come from a political action committee set up by the Oregon Education Association and the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, each of which donated $1,000.
She also received a $500 donation from the political action committee of Stand for Children Oregon, an advocacy organization working to promote equity in education.
Everton has received $3,668 in total contributions, including $2,593 in in-kind contributions for advertising and campaign cards from Communities for Sensible Schools. He also loaned his campaign $1,025.
He is sitting on $23 in cash on hand after accounting for the in-kind contributions and loan.
Watson has received $4,248 in total contributions and has spent $500.
After accounting for a beginning balance of $600 from the previous year and an outstanding personal expenditure of $386, Watson has $3,961 in cash on hand.
Watson's largest contributions have come from the Washington County Democratic Central Committee and Granum, who donated $1,000 and $500, respectively.
Wolfe has received $6,384 in total contributions, including $6,284 in in-kind contributions from Communities for Sensible Schools for advertising, yard signs and other items.
As of his most recent campaign finance filing, Wolfe reported $100 in cash on hand.
Thomas has received $9,852 in cash contributions.
She has spent $4,447, including $4,270 in repayable accounts for advertising, campaign management and mailer costs.
She has $5,404 in cash on hand.
Thomas' largest donor has been the Oregon Education Association, which contributed $2,000.
She has also received $1,000 donations from the Washington County Democratic Central Committee and Washington County Ignite, an advocacy group seeking to support people of color running for elected office.
Phelps has received $6,324 in total contributions, including in-kind contributions of $6,284 from Communities for Sensible Schools for advertising, yard signs and other items.
She has a negative balance of $35 due to an outstanding personal expenditure.
Spross has received $4,692 in cash contributions and has spent $512.
She is sitting on $3,786 in cash on hand after accounting for her beginning balance from the previous year and a payable account of $700 for consulting.
Her largest contribution came from the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, which donated $1,000. Spross' next largest contributor has been her mother, Carol Beach, who has donated $750.
Ward has received $3,025 in total contributions, including in-kind contributions of $2,719 from Communities for Sensible Schools for advertising, yard signs and other items.
She received $305 in cash contributions and has spent $285, leaving her with $20 in cash on hand.
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