- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - School district superintendents across the state are waging a coordinated effort to defeat incumbent Republican conservative lawmakers in this year’s elections, according to state Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who said he is among those being targeted.

Knox made that allegation in an email to supporters last week and in an interview Tuesday with The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/29jEIqP ).

“It’s quite clear - and it’s across the state - the school districts are working strongly,” Knox told the newspaper. “The superintendents are actively campaigning against me and that’s fine, but people need to know that and they need to pay attention.”

Knox represents District 14 in southern Kansas, which covers much of Butler County as well as Coffey, Cowley, Chataqua, Greenwood, Wilson and Woodson counties. He said he has seen signs for his opponents in many homes that belong to school district employees or others with connections to the schools.

Bruce Givens, an educator since 1978 who is challenging Knox in the GOP primary, said it’s likely educators are campaigning against Knox but he has no part in that effort.

“I suppose he should be concerned, because he has not supported public education at all,” Givens said.

Knox suggested some superintendents are intimidating teachers into supporting his opponents in the 26 school districts in his district but he didn’t specify where he thought that was happening.

Cory Gibson, the president of the Kansas School Superintendents Association, said his organization never endorses anyone in legislative races and he knows of no superintendent who is telling school staff to support a specific candidate.

All public employees, including superintendents, are free to support a candidate in their free time but Gibson said most superintendents avoid doing that because they will have to work with the election winner.

The winner of the Republican primary will meet either Democrats Carl Shay Jr. or Mark Pringle in the general election.

Shay, vice president of the Fredonia school board, called Knox’s e-mail hypocritical.

“He obviously doesn’t want public employees to have a voice in their government. And oddly enough he also gets paid by the people and he wants his voice heard, so I think that’s kind of a double standard on his part,” Shay said.

Pringle, who owns a farm near Yates Center, said education also will be a major issue for many voters who don’t work for school districts.

“The folks that are getting out there and rising up against this stuff, they have kids, they have grandkids, they have kids in their community that are being affected,” Pringle said. “They have every reason in the world to be active in this campaign whether they’re putting up signs or talking to their neighbors.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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