Kansas was different the last time Jim Barnett ran for governor.

The Topeka doctor and former state senator from Emporia won the Republican nomination for governor in 2006, eventually losing to Kathleen Sebelius in the general election.

This time around, he sees disheartening poverty and failing services wrecked by the economic policies of former Gov. Sam Brownback and his successor, Gov. Jeff Colyer.

"If we don't invest in Kansas," Barnett said, "we're going to lose it."

Barnett explained his interest in entering this year's race during a recording for Capitol Insider, The Topeka Capital-Journal's podcast on people and ideas in state government. He said he represents "the values of most Kansans," which means educating children, building roads and taking care of those who are less fortunate.


Having practiced medicine for 36 years, Barnett said, it is easy for him to take a pro-life stance on the issue of abortion. But he said being pro-life means extending support beyond the unborn.

He chastised Colyer and Brownback for dismantling mental health care in Kansas, which he said placed a burden on schools, law enforcement, hospitals and shelters. He also has been an outspoken proponent for expanding Medicaid, which would unlock federal dollars and provide health insurance coverage for an additional 150,000 low-income and disabled Kansans.

"We're letting people die right now," Barnett said. "We're letting people go without health care right now. We're letting people with mental illness spend their days incarcerated or in homeless shelters, or not even able to work."

Colyer claims the privatized system he constructed — known as KanCare — has saved the state $2 billion. Barnett calls that a "bogus claim" that doesn't jibe with a report from state auditors who found Kansas is paying 20 percent more as a result of profit and administrative overhead for private companies.

Barnett said Kansans who don't have access to health care are losing limbs and lives. Meanwhile, local taxes have gone up to support hospitals across the state. Thirty of them are facing closure, Barnett said.

"Hospitals become a bank for the uninsured, and like a bank, they can't stay open if they're not solvent," Barnett said.

Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach have drawn much of the attention among Republicans in the governor's race, where a popular narrative suggests Barnett's campaign hurts Colyer. Barnett dismissed the idea that a vote for him is a vote for Kobach, saying instead that a vote for Colyer is a vote for Brownback.

He praised the legislators who voted last year to override a Brownback veto and wipe out much of the 2012 tax cuts championed by Brownback and Colyer. The override had to happen, Barnett said, to make the state solvent.

But the state's budget still isn't balanced, Barnett said, with ongoing sweeps from transportation funding, delayed payments into the state pension system and habitually underfunded public schools.

Barnett said he supports a new plan passed by lawmakers this year to phase in an increase of $522 million for public education over five years. He also said the Kansas Supreme Court got it right when it ordered additional funding to account for inflation.

"We talk about taxing and spending in courts," Barnett said. "They're all wrong. This is about our kids. And this is about leadership. This is where Kansas really needs a governor who will bring people together and say we need new standards in Kansas for how we educate our children."