Bacon wins, opponent endorses foe
John Bacon beat out challengers Harry McDonald and Dave Oliphant for Kansas School Board District No. 3 in Tuesday's primary election, earning a chance to win a third term on the board in November.
But should the Olathe Republican win re-election, he will return to a different board.
The conservative majority of which he was a part has apparently lost its grip on the state board.
Bacon's race was one of five state board positions contested Tuesday on the Kansas State Board of Education. The board previously led by a 6-4 conservative majority gained national press for questioning evolution in state science standards in 1999 and again in 2005 after the first decision was overturned.
Each of the five races attracted multiple contenders who succeeded in changing the majority to overturn the conservatives' decisions on evolution. Two seats across the state -- those once held by Connie Morris and Iris Van Meter -- appeared to have been lost by conservative candidates Wednesday before state votes had been certified.
Bacon will now face Democrat Don Weiss in the general election. Weiss ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and received 3,133 votes in Johnson County.
McDonald vowed Wednesday to support candidate Weiss' bid to unseat Bacon.
"I'm going to support Don Weiss," he said. "I have to vote for the children of Kansas in this case."
Bacon earned his chance for re-election with a strong showing in Johnson County, where he earned 51 percent of the vote. McDonald was his closest competitor with 39 percent, and Oliphant finished with 9 percent.
Out of the 300 precincts in the 3rd District, 225 are in Johnson County. The area represents the southern part of Johnson County and Linn, Miami, Franklin and a part of Anderson County. According to the Kansas Secretary of State's office, the vote from the other counties made little difference in the overall outcome, with Bacon getting 49 percent, McDonald getting 40 percent and Dave Oliphant getting 10 percent.
Bacon has served on the board for eight years and is known as a conservative candidate who supported changes in the state science standards saying that evolution shouldn't be taught as dogma in science classrooms. He also said that requiring parents to opt in for sex education forces them to be more aware of the curriculum so they can teach moral values.
Bacon said that if elected, he plans to continue focusing on the performance of Kansas students.
"Part of that is trying to find better ways to improve student performance and increase progress of students across the state, not just asking taxpayers for more money," he said. "We on the Board of Education are happy Kansas continues to rank in the top 10 with the other states, but we're not satisfied with that. I want Kansas to be No. 1."
Bacon said that if re-elected in November, he would continue to serve his constituency in the same manner.
"I think that what we're going to try to continue to do is improve education in the state and use our current allocation of funds with reasonable increase," he said.
However, Bacon may find himself on a board interested in reversing some of the changes of the past two years.
Several moderate and Democrat candidates won their bid to run in the general election in November. In western Kansas, moderate Republican Sally Cauble beat conservative Republican Connie Morris for the 5th District seat with 54 percent of the votes. In the 9th District of southeast Kansas, Jana Shaver beat out Brad Patzer, son-in-law of conservative member Iris Van Meter who is retiring. Shaver received 58 percent of the vote and will face Democrat Kent Runyan.
Democrat Janet Waugh retained her 1st District seat in Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Jefferson and a part of Douglas County with 63 percent of the vote, beating conservative challenger Jesse Hall.
Conservative Ken Williard won his primary to represent south-central Kansas No. 7 with 54 percent. Willard will face Democrat Jack Wempe in the general election.
McDonald said he was encouraged by the primary election outcome across the state.
"It will be somebody other than Connie (Morris) and Iris (Van Meter), so I'm encouraged for the schoolchildren of Kansas," he said. "But I'm disappointed because more than just running against John Bacon, I was running because I've been an advocate of education and thought I had a lot of good insight and ideas."
Bacon's contenders said they were running because they disagreed with his principles. McDonald ran on a variety of issues, including his concern for the Kansas state science standards.
McDonald, Oliphant and Weiss all agree on many hot-button issues, including opposition to what they view as the state board's attempt to usurp local boards' authority, making sure science standards include evolution andaking sure students learn sex education unless they opt out.
The general election for state school board races is Nov. 7.
For information on candidate Don Weiss, visit www.donweiss.org. For information on candidate John Bacon, visit www.ksde.org/commiss/ksbe3.
All results from Tuesday's primary are unofficial until canvassed by county commissioners later this week.