In 2016, as Kansas voters revolted against Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies in the Legislature, one-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Barnett, saw an opening.
The Topeka doctor bought a red pickup truck, and, with his wife, Rosie Hansen, started exploring the possibility of running for governor again — this time as the unabashed moderate in a field of conservatives.
Despite earning the endorsements of The Wichita Eagle, The Dodge City Globe and several other newspapers across the state, Barnett finished third in the 2018 primary, well behind incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer and the eventual nominee, conservative firebrand and secretary of state, Kris Kobach.
Kansas's shift away from its center-right traditions, fueled by the Summer of Mercy abortion protests in Wichita, has made nomads of moderates like Barnett. It's prompted some Republicans to cross the aisle — endorsing Democrats or simply switching parties. Meanwhile, others are trying to start over with a brand new party.
Among those heard in this episode:
Jim Barnett, doctor and twice Republican candidate for governor
Rosie Hansen, retired foreign service officer and once Barnett's running mate
Kathleen Sebelius, former Democratic governor of Kansas, @sebelius
Bill Graves, former Republican Kansas governor
Alan Cobb, president and CEO of The Kansas Chamber, @albobcobb
My Fellow Kansans is a production of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR in Kansas City, KMUW in Wichita, Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, and High Plains Public Radio in Garden City.
The podcast is written and reported by Jim McLean, edited by Amy Jeffries, and mixed by Matthew Long-Middleton.
The production team includes Beth Golay, Nadya Faulx, Scott Canon, and Grace Lotz. Primary Color Music composed our theme.
Thanks to KPR for letting us use their studio during the making of this episode. Hat tip to Washburn University’s Bob Beatty for his prescient interview with Tim Shallenberger on “Insight Politics” back in 2002.
Special thanks to Neal Carruth of NPR and the NPR Training team.