First of all, a district that has chosen to elect officials via non-partisan processes needs to WANT its elections to be non-partisan and be willing to make some rules to discourage partisan participation. In 2009, it was obvious that the Douglas County School Board election had been overtaken by the American Federation of Teachers and the Douglas County Republican Party. In 2011, candidates are being asked if they plan to except contributions from unions or political parties or PACs (Political Committees). But does a candidate's commitment to not accepting donations from political entities guarantee a non-partisan election?
Most of the support for candidates in 2009 came from ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATIONS doled out by the AFT and the DCGOP. Electioneering communications are typically created for candidates that have been ENDORSED by a group or individual. A candidate has no say when it comes to these communications whether they speak for or against the candidate. Any individual or group that spends over $1000 on electioneering communications (letters, signs, news ads, web ads, emails, robo calls, radio or TV ads) must report the expenditure to the Secretary of State where the identities of those contributing $250 or more to the communication must be reported. So what can the District do to keep political entities from distorting a non-partisan election? Here are a few suggestions.

Disqualify the candidate if:

  • He/she accepts campaign contributions from a union, political party, or PAC.
  • He/she solicits an endorsement from a union, political party, or PAC.
  • He/she receives an unsolicited endorsement from a union, political party, or PAC, where an electioneering communication is created to advertise the endorsement.
    • Since electioneering communications can be created opposing certain candidates, and by omission, support the other candidates, the rule should also state that those NOT being opposed by the electioneering communication will be disqualified.
    • While this rule in intended to keep political entities away from candidates it does not prohibit political entities from advertising their positions on ISSUES related to the election without jeopardizing a candidate's statues.
  • He/she advertises either his/her or their opponents political party affiliation in any way.
    • Candidates can list individual endorsements without political position or party affiliation, e.g., "John Smith" is OK, but not "Senator Smith (D)."
    • Candidates can list positions held in a political party without listing party, e.g., "Treasurer of a local political party, 2000-2004" is OK, but not "Treasurer, DCGOP, 2000-2004."
  • Individuals (not a party, union or PAC) who create an electioneering communications for or against candidates, who mention party affiliation of any candidate in any way can also find their supported candidate(s) disqualified.
Disqualifying candidates on these grounds would serve as a serious deterrent to intervention by political parties, unions, and PACs in a non-partisan race.

These rules do not prohibit INDIVIDUALS from creating electioneering communications for or against candidates as long as "party" is not mentioned or implied. They also do not prohibit candidates from running as a slate, sharing contribution funds, and supporting each other.