By John Celock
A one time Republican gubernatorial nominee is taking a second shot at the Kansas governorship.
Former state Sen. Jim Barnett announced Wednesday that he is kicking off a bid for the Republican nomination for governor, becoming the fourth member of his party to enter the race. Barnett, the 2006 GOP nominee for governor, said that he wants to involve all residents of the state in forming an agenda for job growth. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is term limited.
“I am running for governor to awaken our pioneer spirit, to unleash our potential and to make Kansas a great state for people to work, live and raise a family,” Barnett said in a video announcement.
Barnett, a doctor from Emporia, is seeking a political comeback, seven years after he departed the state Senate following a loss in the Republican primary for a congressional seat. Barnett served in the state Senate from 2000 to 2010 and unsuccessfully sought the governorship in 2006, when he was defeated by then Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) 58 percent to 42 percent. Barnett is also the former Board of Education president in Emporia.
Barnett joins a Republican field that currently consists of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman and former state Rep. Ed O’Malley, with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, state Senate President Susan Wagle and U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder considered potential candidates. Colyer could end up running as an incumbent if Brownback resigns early to take a post in the Trump Administration.
A Wagle candidacy would pit Barnett against his 2006 lieutenant governor running mate.
On the Democratic side, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and former state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty have both entered the race, with state House Minority Leader Jim Ward considered a potential candidate.
Barnett has asked Kansas residents to reach out to him to help develop his agenda, which he is dubbing the One Kansas Agenda. He said that he would be conducting outreach to residents to help build an agenda. Barnett’s approach is similar to one being taken by O’Malley, who has been holding town hall meetings around the state.
“Together we can build an agenda, a one Kansas agenda that can make our state the best it can be,” Barnett said.