Rounding out a four-day tour across Kansas, Democrat and Garden City native Kali Barnett announced her candidacy for Kansas’ 1st Congressional District Tuesday in her hometown.

Barnett and her team made similar announcements throughout the 1st District earlier in the week in Hutchinson, Emporia, Manhattan, Salina, Hays, Dodge City and Colby. In Garden City, she met supporters at Roots Juice Co. and Wellness Studio.

Throughout the tour, Barnett said, many people told her they believed she could make a difference.

“Mostly what I’ve heard is people saying they were so excited and refreshed to hear a positive message at a political event. That, to be honest, is the biggest thing,” Barnett said.

Barnett said she filed for office on Friday, Aug. 2. She is running for a seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican who is considering running for Sen. Pat Roberts’ seat on the U.S. Senate. Roberts, also a Republican, won't run for re-election in 2020.

If she wins, Barnett would be the first woman to hold the congressional district in the position’s history.

Barnett grew up in Garden City as the daughter of Finney County farmers before becoming a music teacher in Wichita and the New York City area. Inspired by teacher strikes across the country, she said, she felt like someone with a teaching background should run for Congress to offer their perspective and ways to create meaningful change.

She said that as a 12-year teacher, she was qualified for the position for three reasons.

“Hard work, a lot of people supporting you and a whole lot of grit. I got a lot of that,” Barnett said.

Barnett touched on several issues at the announcement, including a better congressional support system for teachers and farmers. Afterward, she said she believes anyone living in the U.S., whether a citizen or not, should be able to receive health care without “break(ing) the bank.” Coming from a family of gun owners, she said she is “not about taking guns” but supports “gun responsibility” and discussing what that might mean on a congressional level.

She said she supported the use of more renewable energy sources and environmentally conscious efforts, more mental health care options, treating food deserts, “(taking) care of our soul” through mindfulness, keeping rural health care facilities open, equal pay for women and people of color, and a tax structure that benefits working Americans.

She said she wanted her campaign to promote “a message of love” by supporting residents who are immigrants, veterans and identify as LGBTQ. She said residents needed to have a “zero-tolerance policy for any form of racism.”

She said her heart goes out to families that are suffering and that the U.S. has a “public safety epidemic,” referring to gun violence.

Near the end of the meeting, she asked attendees to raise their hand if they were thankful for anything, if they put off going to the doctor for financial reasons, if they were worried about how to pay health care costs or medical bills, if they were paying off student loans, if they would go back to school if it were more affordable. Hands went up and down.

She asked, to applause, if they wanted to feel listened to when they called their representative and if they wanted more women holding representative positions.

At the end of the session, a man in the audience spoke up, saying he loved Barnett’s enthusiasm and that she could make a difference. He said he was representing the Mexican population in Garden City, which he feels is being persecuted, and that he was glad to see Barnett running.

Barnett thanked him.

“I wholeheartedly believe that as a community member, as a supporter, it’s not about party lines, it’s everything about people,” Barnett said. “Like I said, love is all about inclusion. And even if you don’t agree with that person, everything that they do in their daily lives, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn't have love. And that for me is the message that we send, and it’s time to include everyone in that conversation and make sure that they feel welcome.”

In the coming weeks, Barnett said she and her team will continue to do what they had done already: travel across the district, engage with constituents and communities, and hold town halls and fundraisers.

Elections for the 1st District seat will take place on Nov. 3, 2020.


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