Utah Technology Council flips its support in two school board races

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

In a campaign season of endorsements, unendorsements and re-endorsements, a Utah business association is experiencing its own political reconsiderations.

In a letter to its members Wednesday night, the Utah Technology Council expressed formal support for six Utah Board of Education candidates, reversing informal endorsements for two races made earlier this month.

The council said the original endorsements — which were based solely in opposition to candidates who received contributions from the Utah Education Association — did not represent the views of the organization.

“We acknowledge and apologize that a message regarding candidates for the current state school board elections, not fully vetted by UTC leadership, was recently sent under the auspices of UTC by the Public Policy Forum [and] has led to some misperceptions,” the council’s letter stated.

The council expressed support Wednesday for incumbents Dave Thomas and Stan Lockhart, as well as candidates Alisa Ellis, Erin Preston, Kathleen Riebe and Richard Nelson, who is also president of the Utah Technology Council.

The council did not weigh in on the race between Carol Barlow-Lear and Shelly Teuscher for the school board district that includes Salt Lake City, or the race between Wesley Christiansen and Michelle Boulter in the state’s southwest district.

The support for Riebe and Preston comes roughly two weeks after an email from the council’s Public Policy Forum encouraged support for Gary Thompson and Lisa Cummins, Riebe’s and Preston’s opponents.

“We apologize for any misperceptions the Forum’s letter may have caused,” the letter stated. “We are happy, however, to advance the cause of excellence in education and to discuss these priorities, both formally and informally, with any members of UTC, any partnering organizations, and with the press.”

In an email to The Tribune, Cummins said she was “surprised and disappointed” by the division within the technology council. She said she was led to believe she had the support of the organization, a professional association for Utah’s technology industry.

“I hope that we can still work together to improve [students’] education and create laws that protect the vast data being accumulated on our children,” Cummins said. “As well as provide wonderful technological tools and programs.”

Thompson said the only constituents of interest to his campaign are the children who live within his district.

“After I win this election via the votes of parents in District 10,” he said, “I look forward to working with all special interest groups and unions in a fair and ethical manner.”

The decision to encourage support for an anti-UEA election slate was criticized by several candidates, who said they were never given an opportunity to meet with the Utah Technology Council or its Public Policy Forum.

And on Tuesday, the progressive-leaning advocacy group Alliance for a Better Utah sent a letter to the Utah Technology Council, criticizing the group for using UEA support as a litmus test and urging reconsideration of candidates.

“I’m certainly pleased to see that it generated a reaction and a response,” said Josh Kanter, founder of Alliance for a Better Utah.

But Kanter said the actions by the Utah Technology Council fail to fully reverse or retract the earlier endorsements, which, if mistakenly released, were allowed to remain uncorrected for more than a week while Utahns cast their ballots.

“It’s an absolutely appropriate set of steps,” he said of Wednesday’s letter. “But the damage, it seems to me, is contained in the original endorsements that were made very public.”

Riebe, a teacher and technology facilitator in the Granite School District, said she had a chance to meet with representatives of the Utah Technology Council after it first opposed her candidacy and was excited to now receive its endorsement.

Read the Salt Lake Tribune article here

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