WITH ALL of the attention we devote to Kathy Martin’s re-election contest, we shouldn’t neglect the big picture. In the Lawrence Journal-World, we read: State BOE race slips below radar, subtitled: “Science standards depend on new group’s makeup.”
You can’t follow the article without some initial orientation. It’s vital to understand that in the context of Kansas science education, regardless of political party, the “moderates” want science taught in science class. The “conservatives” are the creationists. All clear? Okay, here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
Five positions on the 10-member board [the Kansas State Board of Education] are up for grabs, and the results of those elections will decide whether moderates maintain their majority, or even increase it — or conservatives gain ground to produce a 5-5 standoff.
Historically, the see-saw battle between moderates and conservatives for control of the board has produced fights over teaching evolution in schools that have attracted international attention.
Currently, the 6-4 moderate majority has established science standards that subscribe to evolution being taught in science classes.
Indeed, for the moment, the pro-science “moderates” have a slender majority. We’ll go through the article as it discusses all five election contests. But first we are told about Steve Case, a Kansas University research professor, who provides some historical background:
In 2005, he [Case] was chairman of the science standards-writing committee that favored teaching evolution, but those standards were rejected by the then 6-4 conservative majority on the board, which put in place standards that questioned evolution and were supported by advocates of intelligent design.
The 2006 election put moderates back in control, and they quickly put in the evolution-friendly standards.
Case said it is possible that conservatives could make gains in this election because people have been focused on other issues.
So if the creationists (or “conservatives”) make gains, Kansas will revert to the supernatural science standards that Kathy Martin and the others imposed in 2005, and which were tossed out after the 2006 election.
The article then gives us the situation on the current board:
The 6-4 moderate majority that supports the current science standards, which include evolution, is tenuous. Of the five positions on the board up for grabs, three are held by moderates and two by conservatives. Of the moderate seats, all three incumbents are not seeking re-election.
So, the board is currently 6-4, in favor of science, but of those “sane six,” three seats are in play. “Tenuous” is the proper word.
In District 4 the race is between Republican Robert Meissner (creationist, a Topeka dentist) and Democrat Carolyn Campbell (who supports evolution). They’re battling for a seat currently held by a moderate who isn’t running again. If Meissner wins, the creationists will gain one seat. The board would be split 5-5.
Here’s another “moderate” seat that’s up for grabs:
In District 8, based in Wichita, Republican Dennis Hedke (creationist, endorsed by Kathy Martin) and Democrat Walt Chappell (pro-science “moderate”) are running for a seat held by Republican Carol Rupe, who is a moderate.
So in Districts 4 and 8, two pro-science “moderates” are dropping out, and “conservatives” could pick up those seats. The “moderates” in some school board districts are Republicans, but in these two races they’re Democrats, which we assume is a disadvantage in Kansas. Wins in these two districts would give the anti-evolution “conservatives” a 6-4 majority.
The third of the five election contests is in District 2, where both candidates are “moderates” and are running for a seat currently held by a moderate. Probably no change there, which could leave the “conservatives” with a 6-4 majority.
Now here’s the fourth of the five contests:
In the District 10 race, Republican David Dennis and Paul Casanova have said they both support the standards. One of them will replace the conservative Abrams, who is running for state Senate.
That one will be a gain for the “moderate” side, dropping the “conservatives” back to 5-5. Abrams is an arch-creationist — in fact he’s openly a young-earth creationist. He and Kathy Martin were quite a team during the Kansas evolution hearings back in 2005. Here’s an article about his current run for a seat in the Kansas state senate: Abrams finds new direction.
But then we have the fifth contest:
And in the District 6 race, Republican incumbent Martin, who is critical of evolution, faces moderate Democrat Christopher Renner.
We’re predicting a victory by Kathy. See: Kansas Creationism: Kathy Martin Update (24 Oct). Unless there’s an upset, no change will result from this contest, because if Kathy is re-elected, her district stays “conservative.” That would leave the board with a 5-5 split.
The article concludes:
If Meissner and Hedke win and Martin wins re-election, the board would be tied 5-5. If Campbell, Chappell and Renner win, the moderates would have an 8-2 majority.
We have a horrible record of predicting elections, but we think the first scenario is likely — an even split on the board. That means they’ll be arguing over creationism the whole time. Bad for Kansas, but fun for us.