Cherry Creek board candidate at debate misstated her connection to FEC United political group, now rejects endorsement

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Cherry Creek School Board candidate Jennifer Gibbons at a district candidate forum Oct. 7, 2021. She was asked about her impression of a recent endorsement of her candidacy by FEC United, a far-right activist group, and she replied she “had no idea” who they were or that they endorsed her. She backed off that statement today when it was pointed out she had responded to a candidate survey for FEC and did know a member of the group who coached her son, saying she was confused at the time and has now rejected their endorsement. SCREEN GRAB/Sentinel Colorado

GREENWOOD VILLAGE | Cherry Creek school board candidate Jennifer Gibbons said at a candidate forum earlier this month that she had never heard of conservative political group FEC United, despite having filled out a voter survey for the organization beforehand.

Gibbons, who is running for the District D seat, said that she did not remember having filled out the survey at the forum, and that she rejects its endorsement of her.

FEC United (the FEC stands for faith, education, commerce) is a right-wing Colorado political organization founded by Joe Oltmann that notably views COVID-19 public health measures as government overreach.

Oltmann was the main promoter of a conspiracy theory alleging that Dominion Voting Systems rigged the 2020 presidential election in Joe Biden’s favor, and has repeatedly voiced false claims that the election was stolen. He is currently being sued for defamation by a Dominion employee.

FEC has a militia branch called the United American Defense Force, which bills itself as a volunteer-run first responder unit. The group is run by John ‘Tig’ Tiegen, who organized the “Patriot Muster” at Civic Center Park in Oct. 2020 where a private security guard for a local television station fatally shot a protester.

Several UADF members were outside during a June 24 Cherry Creek school board meeting where over 100 people showed up to debate critical race theory.

The ‘education’ tab of FEC’s website states that the organization believes that all students should have access to an education that is “free from bias” and “based on the founding principles and tenets of the U.S. Constitution.” Its education position statements include support for parental rights, charter schools and homeschooling and transparency in school curricula, “especially when it comes to history and reproductive health.”

According to campaign finance records, neither Oltmann or FEC United have contributed financially to any political races this election season.

FEC’s website has a list of surveys from 14 school board candidates running in districts across the state this election season, including Gibbons and fellow Cherry Creek candidate Schumé Navarro.

Gibbons’ survey answer for why she is running for school board is duplicated word-for-word in a post on FEC United’s Facebook page from Sept. 30.

“It’s school board election season, and the stakes couldn’t be higher! When asked, why are you running for school board, we got the following responses:” the post said, going on to quote responses from Aaron Salt, Christy Williams and Gibbons and linking to their campaign websites.

At a candidate forum hosted by the school district on Oct. 7, Gibbons was asked how she felt about the group’s endorsement of her candidacy. Gibbons asked the moderator to repeat the question and then asked if the moderator could tell her what FEC was.

“This is going to take me about two seconds because I have no idea what that is and I didn’t know that they endorsed me,” Gibbons said.

“I’m a person who speaks accurately and I can tell you I don’t know what that is and I didn’t know that they endorsed me,” she continued. “’I’m glad my message is reaching other people and I’m happy for their support, I hope they vote for me.”

In response to an email from the Sentinel inquiring about the discrepancy, Gibbons said that she did not remember the organization at the forum because she had completed many surveys during the campaign. She said that she initially filled out the survey because Oltmann used to coach her son’s soccer team and she remembered him being friendly, but was not aware of his current political work.

“I do not align myself with Oltmann in any way shape or form,” Gibbons told the Sentinel over the phone.

“I have received dozens of surveys and questionnaires from many organizations, groups, news outlets, and from people in the community and I have been diligent about pushing out information,” she said in an email. “When I got the FEC survey in September, I looked them up and saw that my son’s soccer coach (from about 10 years ago) was affiliated with the group. I reached out to him to find out more and he never responded. I took the survey and did not revisit it.

“When I went home after the forum, I looked up the FEC and immediately remembered. I gradually learned that they were the group at the June meeting (I was not in attendance) to offer protection. I do not endorse a group that uses physical intimidation, and therefore reject their endorsement,” she continued. “I have not taken money or support from them. 100% of the money my campaign has taken has been from friends, family and members of the community. While I do not disagree with the FEC coming together and doing good in their community (which is what I thought when I visited their website), I cannot approve of physical intimidation, especially at a board meeting.”

In the FEC survey, Gibbons says that she is opposed to mask mandates and does not support schools requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for teachers or students, a stronger line than she took on the same question for a Sentinel candidate survey.

“When our community is split, we need to find a suitable compromise,” she told the Sentinel when asked if she supported the district implementing mask or vaccine mandates. “To me, wearing the mask so we can be together in person is a compromise that seems to be working for most. No one likes the mask and I hope we will not be wearing it forever.”

In a phone call with the Sentinel, Gibbons said that she supports voluntary mask wearing in schools because she thinks it’s a good compromise, but that she believes the vaccine is too new for it to be mandated, and would prefer to wait for more data.

A mask mandate is currently in place for all Cherry Creek students and staff, but the district has not indicated that it has any plans to mandate the vaccine for students or staff this school year.

In the FEC survey Gibbons said that she supports allowing parents to opt their children out of being taught curriculum they found objectionable, and that she believes the district needs to change how it teaches controversial subjects.

“According to CCSD’s own policies, if both sides are not presented, it is considered indoctrination,” she said. “For example, no one would disagree that Black Lives Matter, but many people think the BLM movement has not been good for our community, thus making it a controversial subject. Unfortunately, both sides of this are not being taught in classrooms, and parents are not happy.”

In response to the same survey, Navarro said that she did not support mask or vaccine mandates, which has been a major plank of her campaign. She also said that she opposes tax increases and local bond measures. Cherry Creek received $185 million from a bond increase and mill levy that voters approved in the last election, which is being used to fund a mental health day treatment center, security upgrades and other construction projects.

In response to a question about curricula, Navarro said she did not like schools’ approach to sexual education and that she believed that schools should focus more on non-college options for some students, a similar sentiment to one she expressed at a candidate forum.

“I am a trades person and believe we should look into those options when we address the ‘education gap,’” she said. “Many people of color are often trades people and grading based off of only academic testing shows a huge loss where if we focus on individuals only we can really meet each kid where they are.”

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FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago

Now do the one about Bryan Lindstrom’s pledge to teach CRT to his high school students. Or the one where Juan Marcano and Allison Coombs hide their membership in the largest socialist organization in America while knocking on the doors. Or the one where John Ronquillo campaigns as a moderate Democrat but actually said he would support a $27 minimum wage. Or the one with the details of how felon Candice Bailey tried to murder another person with a gun but was a lousy shot.

They’re all running for Aurora city council, you know?

Mason
Mason
1 month ago

So tear her down because she filled out several surveys and didn’t know who FEC was and then use that as your basis to compare her to a radical opponent (Navarro). Seems like you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel…

Cathy Gardino
Cathy Gardino
1 month ago

Faith, Education and Commerce… Sounds delightfully American to me