Conservative challengers take two out of three Kansas State Board of Education primary races

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Kansas State Board of Education chair Jim Porter, R-Fredonia, was the only one of three Republican incumbents to retain his seat after Tuesday's primary elections.
Kansas State Board of Education chair Jim Porter, R-Fredonia, was the only one of three Republican incumbents to retain his seat after Tuesday's primary elections.

The Kansas State Board of Education will see at least two new faces after conservative challengers beat out incumbents in three Republican primaries Tuesday.

In District 5, covering much of western and north-central Kansas, Cathy Hopkins, of Hays, beat incumbent Jean Clifford, of Garden City, 54% to 46%. In District 7, which includes Reno and Saline counties, Dennis Hershberger, of Hutchison, beat Sterling resident and incumbent Ben Jones 59% to 41%.

Current board chair Jim Porter, of Fredonia, was the sole incumbent to hold onto his seat in the District 9 race, beating McPherson resident and challenger Luke Aichele 62% to 38%. The district encompasses the southeast corner of the state but snakes into McPherson County.

Kansas State Board of Education challengers ran on similar platforms

While the state board is currently split evenly between five Republicans and five Democrats, its members have mostly eschewed party-line politics, and most of its actions since a few controversial votes in the early months of the pandemic have been mostly unanimous.

In each of the three primary races, however, challengers ran on near-identical platforms — even using the same website templates — repudiating what they had called a complacent slate of Republican representative on the state education governing board.

Their platforms included calls for greater local control over education matters, elimination or reduction of social-emotional teaching and data collection, and an emphasis on Kansas parents and guardians having "the unalienable, uninfringeable authority to direct the education of their child."

More: 2022 Kansas Election Results

The conservative victories come after Kansas Senate President Ty Masteron, R-Andover, had called to break up a Kansas State Board of Education he called "monolithic," after the board and Legislature had clashed on several education-related policies and funding.

Each Kansas State Board of Education district is made up of four Kansas Senate districts, with some districts outside of Kansas' urban areas covering large swathes of the state. More than 50,000 people voted in each of the three Republican primaries for the state board seats.

Democrats didn't run candidates in several Kansas BOE districts

Since no Democrats ran in the three primaries contested by Republicans, each of the three Republican winners are the presumptive winners of their districts, barring any significant write-in campaigns in opposition.

Attention now turns to the two other general election races in November, both in northeast Kansas.

For District 1, Democrat Jeffrey Howards will face Republican Danny Zeck, both of Atchison, to replace Janet Waugh, a Democrat who has served on the state education board since 2009. While Waugh had already determined she wouldn't seek reelection, the redistricting process earlier this year moved her out of District 1.

In District 3 covering much of southern Johnson and northern Miami counties, Republican incumbent Michelle Dombrosky faces Democratic challenger Sheila Albers.

Dombrosky has often been the lone "no" vote on many of the board's actions, opting to vote against board policies and guidance she has said infringe on parents' and local school boards' right to self govern.

Rafael Garcia is an education reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at rgarcia@cjonline.com or by phone at ‪785-289-5325‬. Follow him on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas State Board of Education primaries see 2 incumbents lose, 1 win