All of the underlined passages, italic text, and the extra comment in brackets were added by me:
Voucher battle carries into this year's elections
Parents For Choice in Education, the leading backer of the failed voucher proposal, has spent nearly $200,000 on expenses such as polling, mailers and fundraising in an effort to defend legislators who championed their cause, including endangered House Speaker Greg Curtis.
"We continue to be supportive of legislators who work for [education] solutions and vouchers are one of them," said Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education. "We don't want last year's defeat . . . to be a catalyst to stop them from doing the great work they are doing."
Nearly 99 percent of the $222,000 Parents for Choice raised came from two sources: Overstock.com entrepreneur Patrick Byrne and Michigan-based advocacy group All Children Matter.[I.E. Patrick Byrne, Amway, and Wal-Mart are still fighting for vouchers in Utah.]
The Utah Education Association, meantime, has invested nearly $100,000 this year, much of it going to the campaigns of challengers looking to knock off the same legislators PCE is defending, and mobilizing its troops for the ground war.
"We're going to be as active as we can afford to be and we're going to play in races where we feel our involvement can make a difference," said Vik Arnold, director of government affairs for the teachers' union.
Parents For Choice, meantime, spent thousands of dollars on phone banks to identify potential voters and raise funds for their legislative backers. The group provided more than $5,000 in phone banks and voter lists to Curtis and gave a $2,000 contribution to Senate President John Valentine.
Legislators like Reps. Craig Frank, Steve Sandstrom, Steve Urquhart and others received phone bank services, and more than a dozen others received direct contributions to their campaign.
The group's biggest expenditure was $105,000 spent on polling between the months of February and June. Clark said the group was testing the public's response to various education reforms and also doing some voter identification work.
"We were really seeing in Utah what are people's major concerns and what are some ideas" they would be receptive to, she said.
The group provided more than $7,000 in phone bank calls to try to get out the vote for Rep. Glen Donnelson and Rep. Paul Neuenschwander, but it wasn't enough for either to make it through the primaries. Each lost to his UEA-backed Republican opponent, Ryan Wilcox and Becky Edwards, respectively.
"We're obviously sad to lose Representatives Donnelson and Neunschwander. They'd done good things for education as well as all of their constituents," said Clark.
Rep. Carl Wimmer said Parents for Choice set up phone banks to help his campaign raise money to help stave off a challenge from Dave Hogue, a former Republican legislator who changed parties to run for his old seat.
Wimmer said he expects Hogue to try to beat him up over his support for vouchers, but he says it will "be a non-issue."
"I won my last election with 66 percent of the vote and I campaigned in favor of school choice. Everyone in my district knew I supported school choice and they voted for me," he said. "So its obviously not as big of a wedge issue as the Democrats and my opponent think it is."
UEA, meantime, bought $1,000 worth of signs to help Hogue's campaign.
In many cases, the UEA-backed candidate was running against an incumbent who had voted for vouchers.
"For the most part, it is fair to say that [the voucher vote] was a litmus test, it always has been and it will continue to be," said Arnold.