Former state Sen. Jim Barnett made what could be an unprecedented selection in Kansas political history Thursday by choosing his wife as running mate in the Republican Party’s primary campaign for governor.
Barnett, a Topeka physician who was the GOP’s 2006 nominee for governor, said his running mate would be Rosie Hansen, who has accompanied Barnett for more than a year on campaign stops across the state. They completed the official filing process at the secretary of state’s office in Topeka.
If elected, she would be lieutenant governor and first lady.
“I’ve met and talked with people from all walks of life, from all over the state,” Barnett said. “Many were qualified in some areas. It became clear that the one person who was best qualified in all areas was also the person who had spent the past 22 months traveling 70,000 miles with me — Rosemary Hansen, my wife.”
Hansen graduated from Americus High School and the University of Kansas. She earned a law degree at the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree from Harvard University. She worked for the U.S. Department of State from 1985 to 2011, including U.S. Embassy assignments in Bangladesh, Germany, Bosnia, Australia, Afghanistan and Thailand, in addition to service in Washington, D.C.
“I’m incredibly excited and honored to be part of Team Barnett,” she said. “This has been a fascinating journey for us. If you had asked me a year ago if I would be standing here in this capacity, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not.’ We are partners in every sense of the word.”
Benchmarks for the pick of lieutenant governor didn’t feature the traditional pedigree of political connections, geography or money, Barnett said.
“I actually pushed all those aside. What is most important to me is that the lieutenant governor is right on the issues,” he said. “This person needs to be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. As we traveled around Kansas, we kept hearing, ‘We want a governor that has an awareness that Kansas goes all the way to Colorado.’ ”
Barnett said his running mate had to be committed to his “One Kansas” campaign agenda of improving the function of state government and bringing Kansans together to solve complex problems. His platform addresses agriculture, economic development, education, technical training, health care access and tourism. He wants to improve the image of Kansas and attract young professionals to the state.
“When a new stockyard can’t open because the state doesn’t have an inspector, jobs are lost. A poorly run Department of Children and Families threatens the safety of our most vulnerable,” Barnett said.
Other candidates in the Republican primary are Gov. Jeff Colyer, of Overland Park; Secretary of State Kris Kobach, of Lecompton; Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, of Overland Park; businessman Patrick Kucera, Shawnee; and teenagers Tyler Ruzich, of Prairie Village, and Joseph Tutera, of Mission Hills.
The Democratic Party’s field includes Sen. Laura Kelly, Topeka, former Rep. Josh Svaty, of Topeka; former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Wichita; and Wichita teenager Jack Bergeson.
Kelly, who formally filed on Thursday, said Kansans she meets on the campaign trail were concerned about public education, from early childhood through college. Voters are worried about lack of access to early-childhood programs, the lack of state funding in K-12 and rising tuition rates at state universities, she said.
“Medicaid expansion is huge,” Kelly said. “There is a big desire on the part of folks to get that done. It’s not just to cover the 150,000 people who we know don’t have access to health care right now, but it’s also because they understand the economic impact of not having done that.”
She said the state had forfeited — because of opposition by GOP Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer to expansion of Medicaid — about $2.5 billion in federal funding that would have supported struggling hospitals in Kansas, created thousands of jobs and improved preventative health services.