Kansas mayor who tried to rid city library of LGBTQ books loses school board race

Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election shows Childs’ ‘traditional side’ platform failed to sway enough voters to his cause

by Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
November 10, 2023

TOPEKA  — St. Marys Mayor Matthew Childs, who previously attempted to ban LGBTQ books from the city’s public library, lost on his school board bid.

Tuesday’s election saw several candidates from the religion-dominated area attempt to win school board seats on the USD 321 Kaw Valley School Board.

The district, which oversees Rossville and St. Marys public schools, spreads across several counties. Election officials in Shawnee, Pottawatomie and Jackson counties worked together to calculate the final results for the board’s open seats, leading to some initial confusion over the final results.

Elias Espinoza and Jodi Porter were elected to the board. Porter, up against Childs, won the position with 53% of the vote to Childs’ 47%, garnering 1,425 votes to Childs’ 1,281 votes. Childs did not immediately respond to Reflector inquiries.

All of the November election results are unofficial until a final canvass on Nov. 14.

“We are in a culture war which is increasingly threatening the welfare of children especially,” Childs said in a September candidate profile by the Times of Pottawatomie County. “I am unapologetically on the ‘conservative’ or traditional side of this war. Along with many like-minded parents, I am morally obligated to defend our children from physical and moral harm insofar as I can.”

Childs is part of the St. Marys’ governing body, a five-person city commission, and a heavily religious group that attends the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX. SSPX is a strict religious sect that broke away from the Catholic church. Commissioners have previously said their views  and governing decisions are influenced by their religious affiliation.

Childs is perhaps best known for formulating a “morals clause” for the city’s public library lease. The clause asked that the library not carry, encourage or accept any sexual, racial or “socially divisive” material that supported critical race theory or LGBTQ people.

Though the library was allowed to continue operating in their location following massive public outcry, Childs has continued to speak against LGBTQ material in the library.

“We don’t want transgender books in the library. … The elephant in the room is that we don’t want the library to be promoting certain types of material,” Childs said in a July commission meeting.

Porter campaigned on teacher recruitment and keeping cell phones out of the classroom setting.

“I want all those looking for teaching positions to have a desire to come here,” Porter said in her candidate profile.

Preliminary results show Espinoza won against his opponent school board member Adrienne Olejnik, with 1,258 to 1,153 votes respectively. Reflector attempts to contact Espinoza were unsuccessful, but Espinoza is thought to have SSPX connections. A flyer for the St. Marys Academy and College lists him as a point of contact. Olejnik declined to comment publicly on the race.

Espinoza and Childs were endorsed by the Kansans for Life PAC, which sent out mailers in favor of the two ahead of the election. The mailers alleged Olejnik had donated to “leftist causes” and that Olejnik would not “take a stand against drag queen story hours.”

Incumbent candidates Michelle Martin and Kimberly Gillum returned to their board seats unopposed.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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