Former Educator Wins Seat in Kansas State Senate, Favors Local Control on Pandemic Issues Like Mask Mandates

Brenda Dietrich, a Kansas Republican and former educator, won a seat in the state Senate. She was endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association. (Kansans for Brenda/Facebook)

Former teacher and school administrator Brenda Dietrich is projected to win a seat in the Kansas state Senate this year.

Dietrich was ahead of her opponent Rachel Willis by 14 percentage points with all precincts reporting, according to unofficial results posted by the Kansas secretary of state. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Dietrich is likely to maintain her lead even as more votes are counted.

Dietrich, a Republican, is currently serving her second term in the state House of Representatives, but before entering politics she was a public school educator for 40 years, working as a teacher, building administrator and superintendent. Willis, her opponent, is a communications specialist.

Kansas Secretary of State

The seat represents District 20, which includes part of Topeka and regions to its southwest. Dietrich’s win — along with that of two other area Republicans — means Topeka will be represented by all Republicans “for the first time in many years,” according to the Capital-Journal.

Dietrich was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2016; she was re-elected in 2018. She was named Kansas state Superintendent of the Year in 2017 for her work in Topeka’s Auburn-Washburn School District.

How to handle the coronavirus was one of the key differences between Dietrich and her opponent. Willis said she would have supported a statewide mask mandate to deal with the coronavirus, while Dietrich favored local control on the issue, according to the Capital-Journal. Both candidates told the paper they support law enforcement but would like to see the state take action on issues of racial justice.

2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter

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