Barnett names wife, Rosemary Hansen, as running mate in Kansas governor’s race
photo by: Peter Hancock
Topeka — Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Barnett shocked the state’s political world Thursday by naming his own wife, Rosemary Hansen, to be his lieutenant governor running mate.
Barnett, a physician who now lives and works in Topeka, made the announcement at a news conference at the Kansas Medical Society headquarters. The two then went to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office and officially filed to be on the Aug. 7 GOP primary ballot.
Hansen, 63, is a 1976 graduate of the University of Kansas. She earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1982 and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1993.
She also served as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department from 1985 until 2011. There, she helped set up a U.S. embassy in Kuwait after the first Gulf War. She also served as director of the New Post Support Unit in Germany where she provided management consulting to new embassies that were created in eastern Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
She also held posts in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Thailand and Australia.
At the news conference, Barnett acknowledged that it was an unconventional choice, saying most lieutenant governor picks are made on the basis of political connections, fundraising ability or geographic balance.
“I actually pushed all of those aside, because what is most important to me is that the lieutenant governor is correct on the issues,” he said. “And our issues are important for this state — our ‘One Kansas’ agenda that we’ve developed dealing with ag and livestock, with economic development, with education, with health care, with tourism and changing our state’s image, and young professionals, how do we attract and retain young people in this state.”
Barnett and Hansen have been married only eight months. They were married Sept. 30, 2017, after Barnett had already announced he was running for governor.
He quipped at the time that their honeymoon plan was to take an extended trip throughout Kansas.
Since then, Hansen said, they have travelled the state together, spending long hours on the road talking with each other about issues in the campaign.
“Along the way on this journey, what Jim and I have been doing is, in addition to meetings throughout the state, we spend hours in the truck talking. And we’ve talked and talked about what to do, how to do it, what we’ve heard, what amazing people we have talked to. And we just kept going in that process.”
Hansen said Barnett first raised the idea of naming her as his running mate about six months ago.
“And I said, ‘Absolutely not. You’ve got to be crazy,'” she said.
Barnett said he had been working with a short list of four potential running mates, including his wife, and she finally agreed to accept the offer.
It is believed to be the first time a husband and wife team has run for governor and lieutenant governor in Kansas. Prior to 1974, lieutenant governors were elected separately, and their job was to preside over the Kansas Senate.
That changed with a constitutional amendment that requires the candidates to run as a team and that removes the lieutenant governor from any legislative role.
“We need to do some research, but I’ve never heard of it, and it’s really stunning in Kansas for a major party candidate,” Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty told reporters after the news conference. “Keep in mind, this is the former Republican Party nominee. This is not a minor candidate, no offense to the high schoolers. This is a candidate getting anywhere from 10 to 15 percent in some of the polls.”
Barnett, who is also a former state senator from Emporia, was the Republican nominee for governor in 2006 when he challenged then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, in her re-election bid. Sebelius won that race, 58-40 percent.
In 2010, he challenged former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary in the 1st District of western Kansas but came in second behind Huelskamp in a five-way contest. One of the other candidates in that race was current Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann.
In this year’s race for governor, Barnett has tried to position himself as the only moderate who is running against three conservatives: incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer; Secretary of State Kris Kobach; and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.