LONGMONT — The at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents shaped up to be a hot commodity, with two major-party and three third-party candidates seeking to help govern the state’s flagship university.
Republican newcomer Brian Davidson, Democrat Steve Ludwig, Libertarian Daniel Ong, independent Marcus McCarty and American Constitution Party candidate Doug Campbell are all vying for the statewide seat to replace outgoing CU Regent Phil Steinhauer, a Republican.
Davidson, a 29-year-old anesthesiology resident for the CU School of Medicine, won more than 80 percent of the Republican nomination over Steinhauer’s wife for the chance to run in the general election in November.
He said he first decided to run for a regent post while an undergraduate at the University of Northern Colorado, where he began to develop an interest in the politics of higher education. There, he served in student government and worked with UNC President Hank Brown. That interest was further stoked in medical school at CU, where higher-education politics take center stage.
Davidson said that without Steinhauer on the board, there will be no one with experience in the medical profession to offer input on the university’s booming health-care sector, especially as the Fitzsimons campus in Aurora continues to develop.
“I just thought it was imperative that there be at least one health professional on the board,” he said.
Ludwig, who has owned his own public relations consulting business and worked at CU in public relations, said he would like to see higher education in the state try to find ways to cooperate to help K-12 schools curb dropout rates and increase the number of college-ready students.
“We need, sort of, that big-picture perspective,” he said. “How can CU, how can all of higher education help equip ... Coloradans with the intellectual tools that they need?”
Ludwig said collaborating across the board to increase the number of overall high school graduates would allow CU to diversify its student population as well.
He also is interested in collaborating with other colleges, universities and businesses on research and health care. Like Davidson, he pointed to the Fitzsimons campus.
“It is really poised to become the Mayo Clinic of the West,” Ludwig said.
Ong, who two years ago ran for regent-at-large, said he is interested in tackling tuition disparities for part-time students and worries that the regents are not transparent enough with their work. He said that if elected, he would maintain a blog and lobby to Webcast regent meetings.
He said he is not a strict Libertarian and does not advocate for government spending cuts in higher education.
“State government should be cut back in other areas,” he said.
Independent newcomer McCarty, an attorney, said he believes the board could benefit from a second attorney who could assess the legal issues before it while not being beholden to a political party.
He said scandals bred at the university are not the problems that the regents must face, but that they hint at leadership problems.
“I think the biggest issue for CU right now is financial, and you have to figure out a way to spend smarter, and I think that everyone — from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to the Legislature to the next governor — all need to understand that the cost to educate students is not the same at every school,” McCarty said.
He said investment in CU impacts the entire state economy, an area in which he and Ludwig seem to share common ground.
McCarty said he is interested in getting onto the board and addressing structural problems at the university. He said the controversy surrounding ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill indicates that the tenure system may be broken or misapplied.
“That’s my objective, to get in there and dig around and see what is going on,” he said.
American Constitution candidate Doug Campbell is helping to run a campaign for an amendment while running for regent as well.
He said he is concerned that university employees are overpaid, wants to make sure that the regents don’t cringe at the threat of a lawsuit by Churchill, wants to ensure that accounting glitches don’t keep students out of classrooms if the federal government is slow with financial aid checks, and wants students to have an advocate to negotiate the school’s system.
Campbell said he also wants to make sure that students are as fully informed about sex and its potential consequences as they are about alcohol. He said he knows that as a minor-party candidate, winning isn’t a realistic goal, but he’d like to be part of the debate.
“I am saying things that I think need to be said, and so are the other candidates, and we are attracting a growing following, albeit it is still fairly small,” Campbell said.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.