By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Republicans held on to their 5-4 advantage on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents as incumbent Steve Bosley defeated Democrat Melissa Hart for the at-large seat amidst bleak economic projections for the university.
Bosley secured his second six-year term on the board by garnering 51.1 percent of the vote (791,903) to Hart’s 43.4 percent (672,448). Libertarian Jesse Wallace garnered 5.4 percent (84,618) in the statewide contest.
Bosley said his financial background resonated with voters. The former head of The Bank of Boulder said he could use his in-depth understanding of complex budgets and large organizations to pull CU from financial disaster.
Hart’s campaign focused on education. A law professor at CU’s law school, Hart made the case to Coloradans that it wasn’t a banker that the board needed, but an educator like herself. She told voters that she understood the needs and concerns of the university community while bringing new and creative ideas to CU’s budget.
In part, it was Hart’s profession that Bosley said made the difference in the election. As the election drew closer Bosley claimed Hart’s law school position was a conflict of interest, although university policy allows faculty to serve as Regents.
Bosley first questioned how a faculty member could sit on the board and vote on their own salary and workload during an Oct. 6 debate on Radio 850 KOA’s Mike Rosen show. Bosley said he received hundreds of emails and phone calls from voters in the coming weeks lauding him for pointing out Hart’s alleged conflict of interest.
Hart said the attack saddened her.
“I think it disrespected the great service that faculty members like Bob Sievers and students like Maureen Etinger and, for part of his time on the Board, Joseph Neguse have given CU,” Hart said. “I hope that it will not have a chilling effect on faculty members who might in the future wish to serve the university as a member of the board.”
Both Bosley and Hart agreed that a nationwide Republican tidal wave helped Bosley in his re-election campaign. In campaign stumps across the state Bosley lauded his involvement in firing controversial left-wing CU professor Ward Churchill and for fighting a political imbalance at CU.
Hart said Bosley’s focus on conservative messages had a significant impact on the election.
“I was running because I believe the board should be less political and I am concerned about the ideological agendas and attitudes that influence board decision making and distract their focus,” Hart said.
In her bid to unseat Bosley Hart raised more money — $113,362 — than any Regent candidate in history. Bosley raised $74,943.38. The election was the most expensive Regent race in the state ever. Bosley said he was nervous heading into the election, but that Hart’s fundraising did not bother him.
Bosley watched the returns pour in on election night in a hospitality suite at the Republican victory party in the Greenwood Village DoubleTree Hotel. Hart pulled ahead with an early lead, but Bosley said he remained confident when learning early returns came in from Boulder and Denver where Hart and Democrats in general traditionally garner a large advantage.
“Before I went to bed Tuesday night I was still nervously calculating the counties that were still out and thinking, ‘OK if they are all against me can I still win?’ I guess that’s just the finance guy in me,” Bosley said.
Hart conceded the election in a voice mail message Wednesday morning where she congratulated Bosley on his victory and thanked him for his service to the university.
Hart said she doesn’t know what she could have done differently.
“I feel like I did the things I could do to influence the things that could be influenced,” Hart said. “I traveled and met a lot of people around the state, which was an incredible experience. I worked hard to get a positive message out focused on education. I feel good about that.”
The law professor spearheaded the No on Amendment 46 campaign in 2008 — an amendment that would have ended affirmative action in Colorado — and now the Regents race in 2010, but Hart said its hard to imagine running for office in the future. Hart said she would continue focusing on education and continue teaching her students.
“I have no idea though,” said Hart when asked if politics were in her future. “If you had asked me about me running for Regent two years ago I would have said, ‘what are you talking about?’ Even if you had asked me seven months ago I would have said, ‘what are you talking about?’”
Hart hopes the board will focus on the urgent need to keep education costs within reach of families across the state, respect the hard work faculty and staff put into the university and continue to improve CU’s research all while making the tough budget cuts to keep CU afloat.
Bosley went on with business as usual Wednesday when he attended an event with CU President Bruce Benson. He said fixing the budget would be his top priority in the upcoming months. Bosley said the board is anxious to hear what proposals are coming in from the various chancellors at CU’s four campuses to continue cost cutting and restructuring efforts.
The state of Colorado has cut higher education funding statewide by nearly 60 percent since July 2009 in an effort to balance the state’s projected $1.7 billion budget shortfall. The cuts have been temporarily offset by one-time federal stimulus dollars, but they expire next year. CU trimmed $51 million off its budget, raised tuition nine percent and eliminated 339 positions while educating 2,100 more students than in FY 2008-2009. Colorado’s financial support for higher education ranks among the worst in the country.
“By spring we will know the state’s contribution, so we will need to be ready to make tough decisions,” Bosley said. “We will now begin to dig even deeper into the meat of the restructuring.”
Bosley concluded his interview with The Colorado Statesman making a bold prediction. He proclaimed that before his six-year term is finished Colorado’s football team would beat longtime rival Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.