Bonner Springs Tresa McAlhaney isn't your typical politician.
In fact, she's not even a politician — all the more reason she says she'd be the perfect person to govern the state of Kansas.
State government has gotten not only inefficient, says the stay-at-home mom from Bonner Springs, but out of touch with the people it's supposed to serve.
McAlhaney, 34, was never politically involved until recently, when she said she was forced to be. Her homeowners association was in a dispute with the state over the future of a nearby dam, when she noticed how long it was taking state officials to respond. She had also gotten into disagreements with the state over the education of her home-schooled children. "The more I got into the government stuff, the more riled up I got," she said.
She got involved with the Libertarian Party after hearing U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Texas, speak during last year's presidential campaign. And after she noticed a lack of Libertarians stepping up to run for governor in 2014, she took it upon herself to become a candidate.
"I think this is one of the safest, nicest places in the world," she said, speaking of Kansas. But until it gets better governance, she says, it will fail to live up to its full potential.
McAlhaney said she doesn't expect any big-money donors to back her campaign (her most successful week of fundraising — $1,000 — came right after she announced her candidacy). But she says that if she wins, that could end up being a good thing. "We don't want to have to be beholden to anybody," she said.
Her plans for governing include putting the state on a more fiscally sustainable path, with a balanced budget and careful analysis of everything the state funds. She says she's open to eliminating entire departments if need be.
She also wants to legalize cannabis and hemp in Kansas, giving farmers another cash crop and emptying prisons of pot users. "We need to quit arresting people for using marijuana recreationally and medically," she said. "Is this the land of the free or is it not?"
In addition, McAlhaney says she hopes to get past the "If you're not with us, you must be against us" attitude often pervasive in politics today. She says there's nothing wrong with dissent and disagreement and notes that she agrees with the two major parties on many issues. Like the Republican Party, she supports strengthening the Second Amendment rights of Kansas and more choice in education. And like Democrats, she comes out on the side of social justice and having a strong social safety net because, she says, "You're only as strong as your weakest link."
While McAlhaney intends to win in next year's general election, she at least wants to earn 5 percent of the vote. That would give Libertarians "major party status" in Kansas, meaning they would be able to hold statewide primaries instead of only nominating conventions and would no longer have to petition to be on the ballot. She says she's so passionate about the party she'll work on the gubernatorial campaign even if she's not the nominiee (Alma attorney Keen Umbehr has also announced his intention to run).
McAlhaney graduated in 1998 from Lawrence High School, which is where she first met her husband, Michael, who works in administration at the veterans hospital in Leavenworth. She lived in Lawrence during college, and still returns to town to buy her groceries at the Merc Co-op. "I still feel like a Lawrencian," said McAlhaney.
Michael McAlhaney says he's supportive of his wife's political activism and candidacy. "If you've got a problem with what's going on, you should do something about it. And what's what she's trying to do," he said, before adding, of her decision to run to governor: "I didn't know she'd go that far."
On a recent day at the family's children's book- and toy-filled home in Bonner Springs, one of McAlhaney's daughters roller-skated across the floor while another ate a sucker while dressed as a ballerina. The mother of four seems to let her kids have — something she wants all Kansans to have — freedom.
McAlhaney, who in person looks younger and less tough than she does in her official campaign photo, says she ultimately decided to run because she feels like a "mother bear" protecting her cubs. "I'm doing this to save the world for my babies," she said. "And because I'm doing the right thing for my kids, I feel I'll do the right thing for the people of Kansas."