Cultural tilts leave Lawrence standing alone more often

It’s no secret that Douglas County is a political blue island in a sea of red.

In both of President Bush’s national victories, a majority of Douglas County voters supported the Democrat.

But the county is getting more opportunities to prove its blueness in the culture wars.

In April, Douglas County was the only one of Kansas’ 105 counties to vote against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. While the amendment was approved 70 percent to 30 percent across the state, it failed in Douglas County, 37 percent to 63 percent.

And in the recent battle before the State Board of Education over the teaching of evolution, a Lawrence Journal-World poll showed Douglas County stood apart from the rest of the state when it came to intelligent design.

In that poll, of those statewide who said they knew what intelligent design was, 54 percent said it should be taught in public schools. In Douglas County, that was 41 percent.

In the Legislature, the Lawrence delegation usually opposes issues on the social conservative radar.

State Rep. Tom Sloan of Lawrence, who is in the minority among House Republicans because he has voted for tax increases for schools, said when the warring wings of the party started firing, he kept his head down.

“I just basically try and focus on public policy-making and constituent services. People of Lawrence look at who the candidate is, and vote for you regardless of party,” he said.

John Burch, a Lawrence investor who unsuccessfully tried to persuade the State Board of Education to back off criticizing evolution in public school science standards, said Lawrence politics were different primarily because Lawrence was a university town.

But, he said, the city is “actually a good representation of the mixture that is America.”

He said that while Lawrence was often a leader in progressive causes, recent attempts to moderate the social conservative wing of the Republican Party were coming from members of the GOP in western Kansas, who were upset with the education board.

“In this case, Lawrence may become the followers and not the leaders,” he said.