Barnett of Emporia files for election in Kansas’ first congressional district

? The crowded field of Republican candidates for the 1st District congressional seat increased Tuesday with state Sen. Jim Barnett becoming the sixth person wanting to replace outgoing Congressman Jerry Moran.

Barnett, a physician and three-term senator, launched his campaign Tuesday in his hometown of Emporia. He then began a four-day tour of the 1st District that includes 69 of the state’s 105 counties.

“Right now, Washington is a mess. They spend too much, tax too much and borrow too much,” Barnett said in an interview. “I believe Congress needs a good dose of conservative Kansas values.”

The GOP primary winner next August most likely will go to Washington because only one Democrat has been elected in the past 100 years. Republicans have a history of remaining in office until they decide to leave. For instance, Pat Roberts held the office for 16 years before moving to the U.S. Senate.

Other high profile candidates include Barnett’s fellow conservative colleague, Sen. Tim Huelskamp of Fowler, and Rob Wasinger, of Hays, former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback.

The 1st District rush started when Moran, serving his seventh term, said he would seek the Senate seat being vacated by Brownback, who’s running for governor next year.

“More than ever, we need conservative leadership that recognizes the need for fiscal and personal responsibility, to direct better policy for this nation,” Barnett said. “Today we have Government Motors instead of General Motors.”

He said his 30 years as a physician plus his family ties to agriculture make him a good fit for the 1st District which he said has 75 hospitals, more than any other congressional district. Much of the district is in farming and ranching sections of the state.

Barnett said health care needs to be more affordable and accessible.

“The costs are way out of control so many families can’t afford health care coverage or insurance,” he said. “We need to change the law so people with pre-existing conditions are excluded and we need to make sure patients can choose their doctors.”

Barnett was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and Huelskamp in 1996. They have been together on many issues, including less government spending, cutting taxes, 2nd Amendment rights and defining marriage as being between a man and woman.

While neither Barnett nor Huelskamp would criticize each other, each made it clear Tuesday that they believe they’re the better candidate.

“What people want is a person who can solve problems and work with others to find answers to the major challenges facing America,” Barnett said. “The people of the 1st District don’t want someone who is too divisive.”

For his part, Huelskamp said, “Welcome to the race. I think we’ll have a vigorous debate on the issues. We are proud of our 13-year record of fighting for conservative causes.”

Barnett was the Republican candidate for governor in 2006, but lost to Democrat incumbent Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned in April to become secretary of health and human services. He said that race will help in this campaign.

“I have a good degree of name recognition. They remember my name and my message of the need to control spending and cut taxes which is still needed,” he said.

Other candidates in the race are Timothy Barker, of Pratt; Tracey Mann, of Salina, and Sue Boldra, of Hays.