Colorado is heating up as a battleground over education issues. The gubernatorial race could be a watershed moment in the fight to reverse failed and punitive reforms.

There are three candidates for Governor. Two are corporate reformers: Jared Polis and Michael Johnston. The third, Cary Kennedy, has taken them both on for betraying public schools and teachers. I am not aware of any political race where the issues are drawn as sharply as they are in this race.

Polis and Johnston are angry at Kennedy because a teacher-funded group bought ads criticizing their education views. She can’t control the outside group. Polis and Johnston say she is engaged in negative campaigning and call the ad an attack ad. It seems to me that voters need to know where candidates differ. If they can’t criticize one another for their records, how will voters learn about the candidates?

Cary Kennedy was Colorado State Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Mayor of Denver. She has been endorsed by the Colorado Education Association. She also won a surprise victory at the state Democratic assembly. The Democrats of Colorado had previously denounced the hedgefunder group DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) for claiming to be Democrats while pushing conservative anti-public school, anti-teacher Policies.

Jared Polis is a multimillionaire member of Congress who is zealous about charter schools. He started two of them, and as a member of Congress he has pushed for generous charter funding. When I met with Congressional Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee in 2010, after the publication of my best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Polis literally threw my book across the table at me and said it was “the worst book he had ever read.” He asked me to give him his money back. Another Congressman peeled off a $20 bill and bought Polis’ copy. I became the target of his wrath because I criticized charter schools.

Michael Johnston is a TFA alum who was briefly principal of a school, then won a seat in the State Senate. He authored a bill called SB 191, which assigns 50% of every teacher and principal’s evaluation to test scores. The Colorado Education Association fought it but lost. Johnston promised that his bill would guarantee that every school, every principal, and every teacher in the state would be “great.” Eight years later, even reformers acknowledge that the bill failed. But Johnston has opposed its repeal. I happened to be in Denver to meet with about 60 civic leaders on the day the bill passed in April 2010 and to debate Johnston. He didn’t appear until I finished my presentation—literally, as I finished, he walked in— so he never heard what I thought of his evaluation bill. I predicted it would fail. He was jubilant because he had just re-engineered Colorado education to march to the beat of standardized tests.

I have never met Cary Kennedy, but I am impressed by her education views and her deep experience. She is a graduate of Manual High School in Denver, one of the schools that reformers have toyed with for years.

If I were lucky enough to live in Colorado, I would vote for Cary Kennedy in the Democratic primary on June 26.