Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Barnett seemed comfortable in jeans and cowboy boots, and at home touring Great Bend Feeding
Inc. Thursday morning.
Barnett, who grew up on his family’s Lyon County farm, was on what he called an “agricultural issues listening tour” and made a stop in Great Bend Thursday. Other stops this week included Kinsley and Dodge City Thursday, and Garden City and Scott City today.
“We believe agriculture is where our state’s heart is,” Barnett said while at the Innovative Livestock Services feedlot. “I want to put a banner across I-70 that says ‘Kansas is an agricultural state and we are proud of it.’”
Now a doctor living in Topeka, Barnett said water availability, a quality labor pool and providing adequate staffing at state agencies serving rural Kansas are also important for ag producers.
“We can’t lose agriculture,” he said. There are 70,000 farmers and ranchers, as well as associated businesses, tied to the $5 billion industry.
Later in the morning, he addressed local ag leaders and others gathered in the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce board room.
“The state is in a mess,” Barnett said. “I love this state, it just needs good leadership.”
He referred to the “tax experiment” of Brownback and conservative Republican legislators. What is needed is partisan cooperation, common sense and pragmatic problem solving.
“I see this state as having great potential,” he said, adding it has been brought to its knees. “We are ready to pivot.”
In addition to farming, other key issues for Barnett include: Keeping hospitals open and supporting Medicare expansion; attracting young people to the state and retaining those already here by creating opportunities; fulling funding the Kansas Department of Transportation and infrastructure improvements; education, keeping the courts out of the funding picture and working of workforce development; and promoting tourism and quality of life issues.
But, “we need a practical tax structure,” he said. It may be a challenge to fund the basic functions of government while things get turned around.
A crowded field
It has been a while since the former state senator has held a public office. But, Barnett is again in the hunt as he seeks his party’s nomination to replace outgoing fellow Republican Gov. Sam Brownback come November.
He entered the crowded GOP field in June, and faces Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Wichita-based Kansas Leadership Center President Ed O’Malley in the August primary. There are also two Democrats, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Ellsworth native and former state representative/secretary of agriculture Joshua Svaty.
He believes the field will become even more crowded. But, “I look forward to the challenge,” he said.
Barnett was the District 17 state senator from 2001 to 2010, representing Emporia and the surrounding area.
On August 2006, Barnett won the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary. Barnett faced the incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in the general election in November, losing as Sebelius was reelected for a second term.
In June 2009, Barnett announced that he is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the United States Congress from the first district of Kansas, but lost the Republican nomination to fellow state senator Tim Huelskamp in the August primary.
Barnett subsequently resigned his state Senate seat, and resumed his medical career at the Cotton O’Neil Clinic with Stormont Vail Health in Topeka. He is President of the Shawnee County Medical Society and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Kansas Medical Society.
Barnett grew up on his family’s farm, graduated from Reading High School, and earned a degree in chemistry from Emporia State University. He attended the University of Kansas Medical School where he received his doctorate in medicine. He completed his internship and residency training at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
After completing training, Barnett settled in Emporia and worked as a full-time internal medicine doctor. He served on the Emporia School Board for eight years and was President for four of those years, and was also active in the Emporia Area Chamber, Rotary International and his local Baptist church.