The CU Board of Regents is likely to remain under Democratic control after the 2022 midterms

On campus at the University of Colorado Boulder. Sept. 8, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
On campus at the University of Colorado Boulder. Sept. 8, 2021.

Democrats are poised to continue their control of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, with most of the votes counted in the four districts on this fall’s ballot. 

Overall, the board has nine members, governing the University of Colorado’s campuses in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder and the medical school in Aurora. Democrats currently hold a 5-4 majority, and results indicate they will hold onto or expand that majority.

Seats in the 1st, 4th, 5th and new 8th congressional districts were up for grabs.

Regents mainly oversee the system’s taxpayer-funded budget, setting tuition prices and hiring high-salary employees like presidents, chancellors and athletic coaches. This election comes during a period of instability for universities across the nation, as enrollment and finances continue to struggle post-pandemic. In Colorado, the regents have been tasked with ensuring the university system adheres to its current 5-year strategic plan, which outlines goals for growth, research and DEI initiatives until 2026. 

In District 1, which is currently held by a Democrat and mainly covers Denver, Democratic entrepreneur Wanda James led her opponent, Republican attorney Amy Naes, by over 50 points Wednesday morning. 

Republicans will maintain the seat in the rural fourth district. Former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty is in position to take over from Sue Sharkey, whose term is up. Democrat Jack Barrington, a self-described jack-of-all-trades, would have to make up almost 75,000 votes. 

Republican incumbent Ken Montera, who was appointed CO-5’s regent last year, is ahead by almost 20 points. His opponent, Ron Casados, was nominated on the floor during a local Democratic party assembly when no one stepped forward to run against Montera. 

The race in the newly created Congressional District 8 was too close to call Wednesday morning, much like other races in the district. About 4,000 votes separated Republican Mark VanDriel and Democrat Yolanda Ortega. Ortega vastly outraised VanDriel in campaign funds. 

Even if Republicans win the CO-8 regent seat, it won’t change the balance of power on the board. VanDriel, the Republican, would essentially replace Heidi Ganahl, whose statewide at-large seat is being dissolved to keep the board’s membership at an uneven number. If Ortega wins, Democrats would expand their majority.

The shift to Democratic control is new for the CU Board of Regents. Prior to 2020, Republicans held a majority for over 40 years. 

The board’s new roster will convene for the first time in January. 

Incumbents Sharkey and Jack Kroll chose to vacate their seats, which led to the open elections in CO-1 and CO-4. Ganahl, who just lost her bid for governor, also chose not to run in a different district when her seat was dissolved.