Ex-Kansas lawmaker runs for governor as GOP's anti-Brownback
Associated Press, John Hanna
6:33 AM, Jun 20, 2017
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A former Kansas legislator who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2006 is running for the office again, seeking to appeal to GOP voters who are upset with Gov. Sam Brownback and his now-ended tax-cutting experiment.
Former state Sen. Jim Barnett, a Topeka physician, told The Associated Press in an interview that he was formally launching his campaign on Tuesday. Barnett planned to make the announcement in his hometown, followed by stops in eight other cities over two days — including Salina, Wichita and Dodge City.
Barnett said bipartisan legislative majorities showed courage in overriding Brownback's veto of a measure that will increase income taxes to raise $1.2 billion over two years. The new law largely rolls back past tax cuts championed by the Republican governor.
He also supports expanding the state's Medicaid health coverage for the poor, a policy encouraged by ex-President Barack Obama's signature 2010 health care law. The governor vetoed an expansion bill this year.
The 62-year-old Barnett said he's been considering another run for governor since the GOP primary in August 2016. Republican voters ousted 14 conservative legislators in a backlash against Brownback over the state's ongoing budget problems.
"It made me think that perhaps the state of Kansas was ready for a different kind of governor," Barnett said.
Barnett was an Emporia resident when he served a decade in the state Senate, starting in 2001. He lost the 2006 governor's race to Democratic incumbent Kathleen Sebelius and ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas in 2010.
He is jumping into a crowded race to replace the term-limited Brownback, who is seen as a potential ambassador appointee in President Donald Trump's administration later this year.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Wichita businessman Wink Hartman are seeking the GOP nomination, and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is seen as a likely candidate. Ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty have launched campaigns for the Democratic nomination.
Barnett's campaign themes contrast sharply with those outlined by Kobach, the presumed GOP front-runner, who has a solid political base on the right. Kobach excoriated this year's tax increase and is making illegal immigration a central issue.
"I think the people of Kansas want a governor who will be willing to listen to all sides and is a problem solver with common sense," Barnett said. "I do not think the people of Kansas want a governor who is an ideologue."