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Evolution in Kansas board of education races


Two antievolution incumbents retained their seats on the Kansas state board of education, meaning that supporters of the integrity of science education will have only a 6-4 majority on the new board. In the primary election, Sally Cauble, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution incumbent Connie Morris for the Republican nomination in District 5, and Jana Shaver, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution candidate Brad Patzer, son-in-law of antievolution incumbent Iris Van Meter, for the Republican nomination in District 9. Since Cauble and Shaver's Democratic opponents, Tim Cruz and Kent Runyan, also support evolution education, supporters of evolution education were expected to have at least a 6-4 majority on the board, no matter who prevails in the November election, and to press for a reversal of the antievolution version of the state science standards, rewritten under the guidance of local "intelligent design" activists and adopted by the board in November 2005. As it happens, Cauble defeated Cruz by 65% to 35%, and Shaver defeated Runyan by 55% to 45%.

But in District 3, John Bacon, a Republican, prevailed over his Democratic challenger, Don Weiss, by 55% to 45%, and in District 7, Ken Willard, a Republican, prevailed over his Democratic challenger, Jack Wempe, by 51% to 49%. Both Willard and Bacon were avid supporters of the antievolution version of the state science standards adopted in November 2005, and their views on evolution education were deemed relevant during the race, with the Kansas City Star (October 28, 2006) describing Willard and Bacon as having excited "national ridicule for voting to criticize the theory of evolution in state science standards," and the Johnson County Sun (October 12, 2006) castigating [Link broken] Bacon and his allies for their "antics on evolution instruction," which were "an embarrassment for Kansas around the world." Despite their re-election, the Associated Press (November 8, 2006) observed [Link broken], "Come January, moderates will be calling the shots and one of the first things they're expected to do is rework the science testing standards for students to once again make them more pro-evolution oriented."

Also in Kansas, incumbent governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, defeated her Republican opponent Jim Barnett by 58% to 41%. Sebelius issued a statement deploring the adoption of the antievolution standards in November 2005, and subsequently told the Topeka Capital-Journal (October 11, 2006) that she intended to work toward a constitutional amendment to change the state board of education to a purely advisory body, in large part because of the controversy over the place of evolution in the state science standards. Barnett told [Link broken] Johnson County Sun (July 13, 2006) that public schools should be allowed to teach "intelligent design" in science classes, adding, "I believe all views should be taught, but these decisions should be made by local school boards without state mandates or restrictions." And incumbent attorney general Phill Kline, a Republican, was defeated by his Democratic opponent Paul Morrison by 58% to 42%; in February 2005, Kline offered to defend the state board of education if it were to decide to require warning labels about evolution to be placed in biology textbooks.