KC-area politics sit behind the candidates for school board seats

OLATHE, Kan. — There were voters on both sides of the political spectrum at the downtown library Tuesday. Some of the races voters had to decide on dealt with the school board.

“It gets to a point where people can’t dig into their pockets anymore and pull-out tax money,” Olathe resident Verne Mahorney said. “So, we’ve got to be very conservative with what we do with it.”

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It may have been easier for people like Mahorney to vote this go around because groups like Kansas Parents Involved in Education had advised people on who they think they should vote for.

In October, Olathe School Board Member Brian Connell told voters to “think like a common sense conservative.”

“Like in 2021, there are a lot of issues that people care very strongly about, and they’re hot topic issues that really motivate people to get out and vote,” Johnson County Community College Chair of Communication Studies Terri Easley-Giraldo said in an interview with FOX4 Tuesday.

Easley-Giraldo said two of those issues are the banning of books and DEI or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Former librarian Andrew Patterson agreed. He voted for a more liberal slate of candidates for the school board Tuesday.

“I mean the more you learn the better you will be as a person,” Patterson said in an interview with FOX4 Tuesday. “I think it’s up to the parents to decide what their kids can and cannot read.”

Kansas Democrats also made known who they think voters should choose. Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas posted that list on X, formerly Twitter. It was an opposite slate of candidates for Olathe School Board compared to the candidates that Connell had shown support for.

“Generally, when people run as a slate, they’re usually from the same party affiliation because they’re getting funding from various groups that are aligned with those parties,” Easley-Giraldo said. “So, that’s kind of what motivated slates to start with with school boards was because of the funding coming from certain political parties.”

Easley-Giraldo also does political consulting. She says school board races have become very political.

“I always tell candidates when I work with them, the very first thing is, ‘Don’t run as a slate.’ It’s a nonpartisan race,” she continued. “Please don’t run as a slate, but over and over again we see that candidates run as slates, and it seems to look along party lines.”

Turnout for this November election could be higher than similar races in years past in Johnson County.

“We’re going to see probably between 25 and 30% turnout rate total when it’s all said and done,” Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman said in an interview with FOX4 Tuesday.

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In November of 2019, the turnout for that election was just 17%. In November of 2021, it went up to 25%.

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