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Rep. Ron Estes endorses local candidates in Andover, Wichita

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A big name endorsement, considering the endorsement comes from a U.S. Congressman and that it’s for candidates running in local school board elections.

Earlier this week Eyewitness News reported on a national PAC’s involvement in the Andover School Board election. Now, Congressman Ron Estes is urging support for school board candidates in Andover and Wichita.

Eyewitness News learned about the endorsement from the Facebook page of Andover School Board candidate Audra Bell. Estes’ endorsement also support fellow candidates Tim Brunson and Brad Mirakian. We asked Estes why a U.S. Congressman would weigh in and lend support for a candidates running for a non-partisan, unpaid school board election and he issued this statement:

“As the father of three children who recently attended public schools, I’ve followed the same issues as Kansans who have shared their concerns about the direction of several area schools, especially regarding COVID-19 protocols, Critical Race Theory, and a return to focusing on academics. During the last few years, many parents have recognized the importance of electing quality candidates at all levels of government, including our local city councils and school boards. At the end of the day, parents are the best advocates for their children’s education, and this election provides voters the opportunity to choose candidates who will work with them to achieve success.”

Eyewitness News reached out and spoke with the three Andover candidates who received the endorsement. Each said they were humbled and/or honored, and that they only learned of the endorsement when it went public.

After learning of the endorsement, Wichita State University political science professor Dr. Neal Allen says such a move by a national level elected official isn’t often seen in local elections of this type in Kansas.

“This is unusual but not something totally unheard of,” Dr. Allen said. “This kind of thing will usually happen in big metropolitan areas where school board seats are part of larger political debates and also are really a big part of the local governmental structure.”

Allen says there could be concern for partisan politics entering into non-partisan school board elections because the focus of school boards generally deals with budgets and curriculum, not issues that have become politicized.

We did ask Estes who he is supporting in the Wichita school board race, but was only told he was supporting a slate of candidates. We know there are four of those. We were also able to confirm Estes’ chief of staff Josh Bell is related to Andover candidate Audra Bell.

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