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Published: Thursday, 11/9/2006

Voters pick proponents of evolution for board


Voters across the state Tuesday picked pro-evolution candidates for the in favor of those on the intelligent design side of a long-running debate over how to teach public school students about the origins of life.

Sixteen people ran for five of the 11 elected seats on the 19-member board. The remaining seats are appointed by the governor.

John Bender, a Democrat from Avon, according to unofficial results, defeated three other candidates for the District 2 seat that covers Erie, Huron, Lorain, Lucas, Wood, part of Ottawa, and part of Seneca counties.

The results are not final because absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted. Mr. Bender said yesterday that he is cautiously optimistic about his election.

The Ohio Board of Education has for about four years attracted national attention over the debate about evolution and intelligent design in the state's curriculum guidelines.

The race is traditionally non-controversial, but this time was closely watched and in some ways, pitted God against Charles Darwin.

Mr. Bender, 67, served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from January, 1993, to December, 2000. He said intelligent design has no place in science courses.

The apparent runner-up, Kathleen McGervey, 38, a Republican also from Avon, said during her campaign that she has no trouble with the teaching of evolution.

In District 7, which includes the Akron area, pro-evolution candidate Tom Sawyer defeated conservative incumbent Deborah Owens Fink. Ms. Fink led the fight on the state board against teaching only evolution.

In District 4, which covers Cincinnati, pro-evolution candidate G.R. Schloemer defeated John Hirtz, a conservative who supported alternatives to evolution in science classrooms.

The board voted 14-3 last month in favor of ending attempts to change curriculum to include "critical analysis" of evolution and other issues.

Evolution supporters claimed "critical analysis" would open the door to introducing into Ohio's science classrooms intelligent design - the theory that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms.

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