State school-board member Deborah Owens Fink doesn't have many friends -- just a few in the right places.
Her husband, John, is chairman of the University of Akron board of trustees. Fink just happens to be a marketing professor there, where she received tenure under hubby's watch.
It also helps that her husband is a longtime member of the Summit County Republican Party's executive committee, which couldn't have hurt when Fink first won her board seat in 1998. Never mind that university professors weren't allowed to be state board members. After winning the election, Fink magically scraped up enough funds to sue the state and win.
Since then, Fink has spent her time aggressively trying to get creationism taught in Ohio classrooms with little interference, criticism, or media attention. For her second term, she ran unopposed.
But as she prepares to run for a third term, it appears that her stealth operation is no longer flying under cover.
Academics are so outraged by Fink's creationism crusade -- now being sold under the less flammable term "intelligent design" -- that they've formed Help Ohio Public Education, whose sole purpose has been to recruit a competent candidate to run against Fink this year. "Debbie has presented one sham after the other," says Patricia Princehouse, a biology professor at Case Western Reserve University. "There is no scientific content to the material that she wants to see taught. She's using the science classroom as a vehicle for religious conversion."
HOPE has spent the last six months courting at least a dozen possible candidates. "For the past 20 years, the religious right has been secretly grooming people for the school board, so it could push its agenda," Princehouse says. "But that's going to end. We've received overwhelming support from around the world for our effort."
On August 23, the group finally found its candidate -- former Congressman and Akron Mayor Tom Sawyer. "We were actually hoping to get a Republican," Princehouse says. "But [Sawyer] had the skills and connections we were looking for."