Mail pieces in support of and opposition to Denver School Board candidates filling mailboxes across the city isn’t anything new, but two candidates have taken to social media denouncing what they consider a racist attack in one piece in particular. The mailer was paid for by “Students Deserve Better,” an independent expenditure committee tied to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA), the local teachers’ union in Denver.
The mailer’s style, often referred to as a contrast piece, highlights reasons to vote for the DCTA-backed candidate slate on one side and, on the other side, refers to candidates backed by education reform organizations as the “School Shutdown Squad” with reasons to vote against them. The arguments the mailer makes, however, are less of a concern to At-Large candidate Alexis Menocal Harrigan than how they present her image and identity, along with Southeast Denver candidate Diana Romero Campbell. The piece does not include their Latina surnames, only listing one last name for each candidate.
“As the daughters of immigrants and as proud Latinas, we are appalled and hurt by a mailer that was recently sent to Denver voters. The mailer whitens our faces and eliminates our Latina sounding last names,” Menocal Harrigan and Romero Campbell wrote in a joint statement.
“As a Latina and a DPS mom, I am deeply disappointed in the DCTA funding this racist and untrue mailer. Once again, negativity and adult politics are taking precedence over our children and their needs. This repeated offense is unacceptable for our community and I know we can do better for our students and families,” Menocal Harrigan said in an interview.
Menocal Harrigan acknowledges that some of the assertions in the mailer are true, including the claim that her candidacy is supported by “DPS board members who refused to give teachers pay raises earlier this year, causing our teachers to go on strike.” Public records show that one of her biggest funders is a conservative former oil and gas executive, as the piece states. When asked, she reiterated that she believes several other points the piece raises are half-truths or misleading.
By law, independent expenditure committees cannot coordinate with candidates they support. Menocal Harrigan’s opponent Tay Anderson also took to social media to express his opposition to the piece that supports his candidacy.
“I unequivocally condemn the whitewashing of two of the Latina candidates running for school board, one of whom is my opponent Alexis Menocal-Harrigan,” Anderson posted this morning.
The Denver North Star attempted to reach the registered agent for Students Deserve Better and a representative of Mad Dog Mail, which public filings show designs mail pieces for the organization, but neither has responded to our request. We will update this story if we receive a response. The Denver North Star also wishes to disclose our editorial decision to refer to Alexis Menocal Harrigan by only Harrigan after the first references in our school board coverage this month. We will use the full surnames of any interviewee in all future coverage.