Evolution issue tips board’s balance

Election a moderate success

Darwin won.

Moderate Kansas State Board of Education candidates pulled off a victory Tuesday, gathering enough might to topple the board’s 6-4 conservative majority.

A victory by incumbent Janet Waugh, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Lawrence, and wins by Republican moderates in two districts previously represented by conservatives left the tables turned heading into the Nov. 7 general election.

“If we change the board around, we’ll be able to make decisions that we think are right for our students,” Lawrence school board member Craig Grant said.

Grant had worked to defeat the conservatives who attracted international attention and ridicule for the state after adopting science standards critical of evolution.

Waugh held onto her seat in District 1, rebuffing a challenge from conservative Jesse Hall who, according to the last campaign finance report, had raised about three times more money. But Waugh collected 63 percent of the vote.

“Obviously money can’t buy elections,” she said. “I think the people of Kansas are tired of being the laughingstock not only of the nation but the world.”

Not all the conservatives were defeated.

Conservative incumbent John Bacon held his seat in District 3, which includes parts of Johnson County. Bacon won by a slim margin, with 49 percent. Challengers Harry McDonald, Olathe, the former president of Kansas Citizens for Science, and David Oliphant, also of Olathe, split the remaining vote.

Bacon faces Democrat Don Weiss in the general election.

In the District 5 race to represent a large part of western Kansas, conservative incumbent Connie Morris trailed moderate challenger Sally Cauble who at midnight had 54 percent of the vote with 556 of 609 precincts reporting.

Conservative Ken Willard held his seat in District 7 by a wide margin. He faces Democrat Jack Wempe in November.

And with few votes still to be counted at midnight, moderate Jana Shaver appeared to be the favorite for the District 9 seat. Shaver ran against Brad Patzer, son-in-law of outgoing conservative board member Iris Van Meter. At press time, Shaver had 58 percent of the vote. The winner faces Democrat Kent Runyan in the general election.The five races have attracted national attention as both sides battled for control of the board.Many wanted a shake-up after the 6-4 conservative majority altered the state’s science standards, rewriting the definition of science and adding criticism of evolution.

Proponents of Kansas’ latest standards say they encourage open discussion.

“Students need to have an accurate assessment of the state of the facts in regard to Darwin’s theory,” said John West, a vice president for the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based, anti-evolution Discovery Institute.

The conservative board majority changed the rules on sex education, requiring parental permission before students participate in classes, though districts including Lawrence opted not to change their ways.

And the conservative majority pressed the issue further, considering an “abstinence-until-marriage” approach to sex education.

It also filled the state’s top education administrative seat with Bob Corkins – a conservative activist with no educational background who lobbied against increased school funding.