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In Sickness, Health and Race for Kansas Governor, Barnett Picks Wife as Running Mate

Jim Barnett, an Emporia physician and former state lawmaker, named his wife, Rosemary Hansen, as his choice for lieutenant governor. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Republican candidate for Kansas governor Jim Barnett has chosen what he admits is an unconventional running mate: his wife.

Barnett announced Thursday that he had selected Rosie Hansen as his lieutenant governor pick.

Barnett said he wanted a running mate to help accomplish his goals of improving the way state government functions and bridging the divide between rural and urban Kansas.

“It became clear that the one person who was best qualified in all areas was also the person who had spent the past 22 months traveling 70,000 miles with me, Rosemary Hansen, my wife,” Barnett said in the announcement.

With a laugh, Hansen recounted her initial reaction when Barnett asked her to be his running mate.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not. Are you crazy? I’m not a politician,’” she said. “And he said, ‘That’s why you should be lieutenant governor.’”

Hansen was a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department, where she helped establish and manage overseas embassies.

She said she was persuaded to run after thinking about ways to use her experience.

“These are things that I could do. These are ways I could contribute,” she said. “He said to me ‘That’s great, but you can only contribute from the inside. You really can’t do that from the outside.’”

The two married in September 2017.

Barnett is an Emporia physician who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2006 while serving in the Kansas Senate. He said he had also considered several other possible choices for his running mate.

Barnett is positioning himself in the race as more of a centrist than other Republican candidates, including Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.

Washburn University Political Science Professor Bob Beatty said he’s not aware of any past husband-and-wife candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Kansas. He also couldn’t think of any examples in other states.

“Unusual is not the correct word. (It’s) unprecedented in Kansas history,” Beatty said. “It’s really stunning in Kansas for a major party candidate.”

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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