Jim Barnett making another bid for governor, as moderate alternative to Kobach
Topeka ? Jim Barnett announced Tuesday that he will once again run for governor in 2018, holding himself out as a moderate alternative to Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the Republican primary.
Barnett, a physician who now practices in Topeka, served 10 years in the Kansas Senate representing Emporia and was the GOP nominee for governor in 2006, eventually losing to incumbent Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat.
“If I’m elected governor, I want a sign across I-70 that says we’re an ag state and we’re proud of it,” Barnett said during an announcement event in Topeka. “And, frankly, I would also put a sign across I-70 that says the Kansas tax experiment has come to an end.”
Barnett said he supported a measure that lawmakers passed this year, over Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto, reversing the tax policies that Brownback had championed in 2012.
He said he also would support expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, although he acknowledged that Congress and the Trump administration are likely to make significant changes to that law and to Medicaid generally.
And he said he supports funding highways and other infrastructure improvements, and he supports funding K-12 public schools in a way that would keep the state out of court.
To accomplish all of that, Barnett said Kansas needs to grow economically. And while he offered no specifics about how to accomplish that, he did say it would involve investing in education and making Kansas a place that attracts young professionals.
“Some people speak in terms of millennials; I like to speak in terms of young professionals,” he said. “For our future, for our state, we have to make this state a place where they can come to work and live and raise a family, and we have to have jobs for them to do that. And that’s going to be our greatest challenge.”
One issue on which Barnett was not considered a moderate, however, is abortion. Barnett was a staunch opponent of abortion and in 2010, his final year in the Senate, he voted to override then-Gov. Mark Parkinson’s veto of an abortion bill.
Barnett resigned from the Senate in 2010 and ran unsuccessfully that year for Congress, trying to oust then-Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the 1st District.
Barnett now jumps into an already-crowded field for the GOP nomination. In addition to Kobach, Wichita businessman Willis “Wink” Hartman is competing for the conservative vote, while former state Rep. Ed O’Malley, who is now president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, is competing for the moderate vote.
On the Democratic side, former lawmaker and state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty, of Ellsworth, is competing with former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. And current House Minority Leader Jim Ward, of Wichita, is expected to get into the race soon.
Greg Orman, an independent who ran a surprisingly strong campaign against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014, also is said to be considering the governor’s race.