TOPEKA, Kan. – Seven Republicans compete in Tuesday's primary for the right to challenge Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, while three members of the Kansas Board of Education will try to stave off defeat over their support of new science standards that call evolution into question.
The Board of Education vote could spell the end for the conservative majority that adopted the science standards last year.
Despite the state's GOP heritage, Sebelius seems a solid bet for re-election. She was unopposed in the primary, she entered the fall campaign with more than $2 million on hand, and even some Republicans believe she hasn't done a bad job.
"I don't think any Republican has much of a chance," said Richard Barrows, a pharmacist and registered Republican in the small town of LaCrosse. "There have been no major mistakes or major embarrassments."
State Sen. Jim Barnett, former Kansas House Speaker Robin Jennison, and Ken Canfield, author and founder of the Kansas City-area National Center on Fathering, were considered the GOP front-runners. Barnett was the only one to run TV ads.
Last year, the Board of Education's 6-4 conservative majority rewrote the science standards for public schools to say that some aspects of evolution are controversial or face scientific challenge.
The vote was a victory for the intelligent design movement, which holds that life is so complex that it must have been created by some kind of higher authority. Critics of intelligent design say that it is just religion in disguise.
Four board members — including three Republicans who supported the anti-evolution standards — have primary opponents. Connie Morris' race in western Kansas was the most closely watched; last year in a constituent newsletter, she described evolution as "an age-old fairy tale."
A fifth seat on the board is up for grabs; a Republican who supported the new science standards is retiring.
A poll commissioned by six news organization last year indicated about half of Kansans favored teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.
"Personally, I don't think we ought to teach evolution at all," Chuck Warner, a 53-year-old farmer and cattle buyer along the Nebraska line. "But if that's the way it has to be, then I think we ought to be able to teach Christianity and the Bible, too."