A lot of African-American candidates threw their political hats into the ring this season.
They realized the importance of local politicians who have a lot of say on policies that impact our lives. The same goes for school board members, who make decisions that impact the education of our children.
Here are some of the success stories from across the state:
Topeka City Council
Topeka elected two African-American members to their city council. They aren’t the first Blacks to serve, but they are the first in a long time.
Marcus Miller was elected to represent Topeka’s District 6, replacing Hannah Naeger, who chose not to seek reelection. Born and raised in Topeka, Miller played football at Washburn University. He currently serves as executive director of First Tee Topeka, a program that teaches golf, as well as character development, to area youth.
In another race where the incumbent did not seek reelection, David Banks was elected to represent Topeka’s District 4. A native of Chicago, Banks came to Topeka to attend Washburn University on an athletic scholarship, fell in love with the city and stayed. He’s a retired Topeka firefighter, having served a key role for the department in community education.
Wichita School Board
Melody McCray-Miller was the only African-American running for office in Wichita or Sedgwick County. She was elected to serve as an at-large representative to the USD 259 school board, replacing Sheril Logan who chose not to seek reelection. McCray-Miller, who has previously served in the Kansas Legislature and on the Sedgwick County Commission, came out of retirement to help ensure a quality education for our children.
She is the only African American on the board, however Ngoc Vuong, an Asian American, was also elected to the board. Hazel Stabler, a Native American, also serves on the board.
Maintaining a liberal-to-conservative balance on the board was at stake in this election. With three conservatives elected to the board in 2021, the loss of one liberal member on the board would have shifted the balance of the seven-member board. In addition to McCray-Miller, Vuong and Stan Reeser, both liberal-leaning, were elected to the board. They join liberal-leaning Julie Hedrick, already on the board, to maintain a 4-to-3 majority.
Junction City Commission
Al Gordon, a convenience store and U-Haul rental business owner, was elected to the Junction City Council. Gordon, a Chicago native, moved to Junction City in 2018, and says he decided to run in support of the working class of Junction City and for the betterment of the community. In JC, candidates run for the commission at large.
There were three seats open, the top two vote recipients are elected to four-year terms, and the third-highest vote recipient is elected to a two-year term. Gordon came in third, which means he might not want to get too comfortable in his seat, since he’s only guaranteed two years.
Lawrence City Commission & School Board
Amber Sellers was reelected to a four-year term on the Lawrence City Commission. In 2021, she made history as the first African-American female elected to the Lawrence City Commission. A Wichita native, Sellers moved to Lawrence in 1999 to attend the University of Kansas. She holds a master’s in public administration and health education and works as the director of advocacy for a statewide foundation.
Sellers is one of two African Americans on Lawrence’s five-member commission.
Yolanda Franklin was elected to the board of the Lawrence School Board, USD 497. Franklin, a former school employee with grandchildren attending schools in the district, runs a local nonprofit that feeds the homeless, low-income families and second-chance felons. She ran on a slate endorsed by Kansans United for Public Schools, a statewide movement to fairly fund education.