The Aug. 7 Republican gubernatorial primary election in Kansas is among the most critical in many years.

Voters must be careful.

The winner could ease the path to the same irresponsibility we saw from former Gov. Sam Brownback. Or, voters have the opportunity to select a Republican who’s calm, thoughtful and ready to fix problems.

With a farm background and career helping others as a physician, Jim Barnett embraces traditional Kansas values.

He isn’t a political climber. Rather, he’s prepared to make tough decisions required to move Kansas forward — just as the Legislature did recently in restoring income taxes recklessly slashed by Brownback and fellow ultraconservatives who put unfair tax breaks for wealthy Kansans above key state-funded programs.

Public education, highways, corrections and other core services bore the brunt of the former governor’s agenda as the state spiraled further into debt. It will take many years to address the fallout.

In 2016, voters rightly steered the Legislature toward more centrist, sound thinking. Barnett is the lone Republican gubernatorial candidate who would forward that positive momentum.

The other three contenders embody more of the far-right mindset that damaged Kansas. And now, with ultraconservatives out to recapture Kansas House seats and the Kansas Senate already too far right, the Statehouse is in jeopardy of shifting back to all-out, radical-right control, as happened in 2013 after Brownback’s camp purged moderate legislators who resisted ideology that hurt the state.

Kansas cannot afford a repeat of that sad chapter.

While the years ahead will be difficult, Barnett — a former state senator — stands ready to work with all in the Legislature on challenges ranging from budgetary woes to access to affordable healthcare.

With time as a school board member in Emporia, Barnett knows the role of public education in fueling economic development, and will promote job training opportunities needed throughout Kansas.

His unconventional selection in a running mate also was notable. Barnett chose his wife, Rosie Hansen. She was a U.S. Department of State foreign service officer with U.S. embassy assignments worldwide — extraordinary experience that would benefit any future governor.

Above all, Kansas needs an alternative to Republican extremism. That’s Barnett, the clear choice for voters in the GOP primary.