Colorado Board of Regents race: At-large candidates

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus, Oct. 20, 2023.

The University of Colorado Board of Regents, the governing body of Colorado’s largest higher education system, has three open seats this year. 

The board consists of one statewide, at-large member and one regent from each of Colorado’s eight congressional districts. Regents serve six-year terms and are termed out after two successive incumbencies. 

The board’s main responsibilities include overseeing the CU system’s taxpayer-funded budget, which totaled over $340 million in fiscal year 2024. The board also is responsible for hiring its president, finalizing sports coaches’ contracts and setting tuition prices for each individual campus. Recently, CU regents were the targets of criticism by antiwar protesters at Denver’s Auraria campus, who demanded the board disclose and sever financial ties with companies operating in Israel. The board stated that it wouldn’t recommend policy changes in response to the demands.

The Regents often find themselves in a peculiar situation -- state lawmakers can pass policy that pertains to public universities in Colorado, often bypassing the board itself. This happened as recently as the last legislative cycle, where state lawmakers passed a bill banning concealed carry from university campuses, despite hesitation from the Regents to do so themselves.

Until 2020, Republicans held a longstanding majority on the board. Tenure on the board has proven to be a jumping off point for several high-profile Colorado politicians, including 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl and Democratic U.S. Representative Joe Neguse. 

This year, one at-large seat is up for grabs, as well as seats in CO-3 and CO-5. Only the Democratic primary for the at-large seat is contested — all other primaries have candidates running uncontested. In CO-3, two names will be on the Republican ballot, but Kristine Sposato has dropped out of the race, meaning votes for her will be deemed invalid. 

At-large: Charles "CJ" Johnson

Charles “CJ” Johnson was a quarterback on CU Boulder’s 1990 National Championship team and currently works as the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Ball Corporation. 

“With a commitment to CU that spans 35 years from student government to athletic director to my current role as a member of the Board of Trustees, my drive to provide greater access and opportunities for all students is well established,” Johnson said on his website. 

Johnson said he would center affordability, DEI and climate sustainability if elected to the board. Johnson’s endorsements include current CU Regents Wanda James and Nolbert Chavez.  

At-large: Elliott Hood

Elliot Hood, a CU Boulder alum, former teacher and an education attorney, said his experience advocating for school districts and serving on various boards makes him an ideal candidate for the at-large seat. 

“I plastered my classroom walls with photos of CU and other universities and talked often about how, if they worked hard, they too could attend and graduate from college,” Hood wrote on his website. “I still believe deeply in the promise of higher education.”

Hood said if elected as a regent, he would work to make CU more accessible, ban concealed carry on-campus, and support collective bargaining for university employees. 

Hood has gained the endorsement of several people on the board, including chair Callie Rennison and Lesly Smith, who currently holds the seat that Hood is seeking.