TOPEKA Libertarian Keen Umbehr put his name on the November ballot for Kansas governor on Tuesday, declaring that residents want a government that is fair for all people all the time.
The 55-year-old Alma attorney filed the paperwork and paid a $500 fee at the secretary of state's office. Umbehr said taxes and protecting the civil liberties of all residents, not just special interests, would be themes during the race.
"Kansas is fair. People are looking at Kansas to see what we do," Umbehr said.
Umbehr says taxes and civil liberties are first on his agenda. His running mate is his son, Dr. Josh Umbehr, a Wichita physician. He said if elected he would seek to eliminate the state income and sales taxes and replace them with a 5.7 percent tax on consumption of goods and services. Umbehr said the cuts that eliminated income taxes for certain classes of businesses, including his own, in 2012 were unfair.
"They did it for 191,000, they can do it for the other 1.3 million wage earners," he said.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, filed last week for their bid for a second term. Democrat Paul Davis, the current House minority leader, is running for governor with Jill Docking as his running mate, but they have yet to officially file. The filing deadline is June 2. No other Democrats have entered the race.
Umbehr said the goal wasn't just to get 5 percent of the vote, which would elevate Libertarians to major party status in Kansas. He thinks a Libertarian could get 35 percent in a three-way race with Brownback and Davis.
"It does change the calculus, and that's a good thing," he said.
Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist who has studied Kansas governors, said Umbehr could be a factor in November, especially in a tight race between Brownback and Davis.
"This year the Libertarian candidate is the wild card," Beatty said. "Is it a close race? It's sort of a phantom election right now because there isn't any real contentious campaigning going on."
Beatty said Umbehr's challenge, as it is for any third-party candidate in Kansas, is to raise enough money to get his message on television and radio so voters see him as a legitimate alternative.
"There is often the thought that they should be doing better than they are in Kansas, but they rely too much on free media," Beatty said.
Umbehr said he has put $50,000 of his own money in the race, adding he wasn't "going to ask voters to do something he wasn't willing to do on his own."