Olathe School Board seat too close to call, separated by less than 30 votes

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OLATHE, Kan. — One race in Johnson County is separated by a margin of just 24 votes.

The final ballots, including mail-in and provisional ballots, still need to be counted in the Olathe Board of Education race for the Member 3 seat. Election results will be certified next week.

The candidate currently trailing is a part of the crop of people finding a lot of success in local school board races who have defined themselves by being critical of masking policies in schools, as well as other COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

Jennifer Gilmore, currently down 24 votes on her opponent, has spoken frequently meetings of the Olathe Board of Education. Most recently she reflected on attending her daughter’s band concert.

“But sitting in the audience watching children play musical instruments masked really made me wonder if this board is really interested in building back a stronger community,” Gilmore said during the public comment period of the October 7 meeting.

Gilmore claimed victory Tuesday night but final results are not yet confirmed. The number of votes separating her from defeat is less than 1/6th of 1% of the total votes cast.

Her opponent, Julie Steele put out a statement saying she is “…looking forward to learning the outcome once every vote has been counted. If it turns out that the voters have chosen me, I will be ready to step forward and work hard for our students.”

Notably, the other candidates in Olathe who were critical of the district’s handling of COVID-19 also won their races: Robert Kuhn in the Member 5 seat and Brian Connell in the Member 6 seat.

Connell was best known for his activism following the collapse of his son on a baseball mound while pitching for Olathe West. But more recently Connell has struck a critical tone during board meetings.

“Some of y’all try to shut us down and call us disgruntled on Facebook, university students. Well I’m telling you, we love our kids, you love your kids, but we can do better,” Connell said during the October 7 meeting.

In regards to the race that is too close to call – there are no automatic recounts in Kansas. Instead a candidate can request a recount with that challenger needing to put down a bond equivalent to the estimated cost.

A hand recount is the most expensive option.

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