Jim Barnett and Rosie Hansen — a husband and wife team — have formed a unique gubernatorial ticket.
Barnett, a Republican candidate for governor, did not look far for a running mate: just across the cab of the truck they drive to campaign stops across the state. He said the choice was easy.
“I wanted somebody that was correct on the issues and somebody you can trust that could step in on a minute’s notice,” Barnett said. “Rosie has traveled the state — over 73,000 miles in the truck — listening to Kansans. They have told us the problems and they told us the answers.”
Hansen, who was the chief operating officer for several years in U.S. embassies around the world, at first was hesitant to accept the position because she is not a politician. But soon realized she could be a catalyst for change in Kansas.
“If I am going to be able to do [anything], I needed to be a part of the team,” she said. “I can’t [be a difference-maker] from the outside. I realized when you see you can make a difference, you have to step up and do it.”
Barnett said the couple would be a full-time governor and lieutenant governor.
“We talk about [the issues] all the time,” Hansen said. “Constantly in the truck...what we could do about what we heard.”
Hansen lived in places such as Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Kuwait after the Gulf War, and Kansas could use her expertise in management and efficiency, Barnett said.
“[State] government has gone off the rails the past seven years,” he said. “Ag, livestock and all other industries in the state need markets. She has that comfort by living around the world and supporting those individuals that are involved in trade.”
Hansen said those experiences served her well, and she would use those to help improve trade relationships for Kansas.
“We have so much potential in our state for greater trade,” Barnett said. “We need those markets open and need new markets. That is one I see as a priority as governor and why Rosie would be so good as lieutenant governor because she has worked in and around those environments. She is familiar with governments around the world.”
Economic growth is the greatest challenge for the governor and lieutenant governor in the next term, Barnett said.
“If we don’t get the state’s economy growing, we are all in trouble,” he said. “Part of that is [state leaders] did not balance the budget year after year. That pushed up property taxes at the local level for cities and counties. That hurt ag because commodity prices were so low. We are now living month-to-month, paycheck-to-paycheck. Even worse than that, credit card debt when you look at our bonding.”
The couple was adamant about investing in the state. Barnett said Kansas needs investment in education, healthcare, mental healthcare, infrastructure, and workforce training.
“We have to invest in [those things] or Kansas will never catch up and grow with the rest of the nation,” Barnett said. “Kansans are willing to invest in the state if they know it will help grow the economy and make it a better place for their children and grandchildren. Kansans are smart and practical people. We think people are looking for a governor-lieutenant governor team that will use common sense and just solve problems.”
Barnett said the time is right for a real leader to take charge and be that problem-solver. Barnett said Kansas lacked leadership during the past administration as they did not present budgets or a plan to deal with education.
“Our mental healthcare system has been dismantled,” Barnett said. “We are taking care of mental health either in emergency rooms, jails, schools — where they are not equipped or trained — or in our homeless shelters. That is not the values that Rosie and I stand for. We see generational poverty, behavioral and health issues, substance abuse, and generational checks monthly from the state and federal government. We have to break that slide. It is going to take investment, especially in early childhood. If we help those children early with public-private partnerships with school districts and communities, we know from studies and programs elsewhere those children can be saved and become productive citizens and taxpayers. If they are not helped, they will become incarcerated or on the street.”
Hansen said the #OneKANSAS theme of their campaign is what drives the couple to stay the course.
“We have been hearing Kansans say, ‘one,’ ‘unite,’ ‘work together,’” Hansen said. “That is what we are about. That is how you bridge the partisan divide that makes us dysfunctional in Topeka. That is how you bridge the rural-urban divide. That is what we want to bring to Kansas.”