Government & Politics

April 26, 2014

Kansas Libertarians choose election slate

Libertarians from across Kansas met in Wichita on Saturday and selected lawyer-activist Keen Umbehr of Alma as their candidate for Kansas governor.

Libertarians from across Kansas met in Wichita on Saturday and selected lawyer-activist Keen Umbehr of Alma as their candidate for Kansas governor.

Umbehr’s son, Josh Umbehr, a Wichita physician, was selected as his running mate for lieutenant governor.

Keen Umbehr, 55, beat out Tresa McAlhaney of Bonner Springs, a founder of the Libertarian Party in Wyandotte County, for the governor’s race.

The elder Umbehr closed his law practice in Alma last month so he can campaign full time.

“We’re all in,” he said.

The weekend convention was held at the Holiday Inn on Friday and Saturday and featured the party’s biggest political star, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who was the keynote speaker.

Johnson ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 2012 and is expected to be the party’s candidate again in 2016.

It’s an important year for Kansas’ third party.

Its members hope this will be the year their candidate receives 5 percent of the vote in the governor’s race, which would move the Libertarians from minor party status to major.

That would allow them to hold a primary election like the Republican and Democratic parties in Kansas.

Then “we’ll be on the primary ballot like everybody else,” said party vice chairman Rob Hodgkinson of Stilwell.

The Libertarians have added about 12,300 members since the 2012 election cycle.

Umbehr said he is running on four main issues, including the repeal of the state income tax, increasing penalties to government agencies that violate the Kansas Open Meeting Act and Kansas Open Records Act, a change in health care policy and educational choice.

Current state law gives businesses a zero income tax liability, but that is unfair and discriminatory, Umbehr said.

No Kansas wage earner should pay state income tax, Umbehr said. That will increase personal spending, increase sales tax revenue, create private sector jobs and boost the economy.

“This affects everybody,” Umbehr said.

He also favors increasing fines for violations of open records law to $5,000 per offense and allow for recovery of plaintiff’s attorney fees in those cases. That would make state agencies fear noncompliance, he said.

The view into government transparency was a doorway, then a window and then a peephole, Umbehr said.

“Now they want to put their thumb across that,” he said. “We’ve got to know what’s going on.”

Umbehr also supports revisions to the Kansas Whistleblowers Act to include everyone reporting governmental malfeasance, not just state employees, which is currently the case, he said.

Josh Umbehr is a family practice physician and founder of Atlas MD, where patients pay a flat monthly fee. He doesn’t accept health insurance.

In return, patients see him and get many routine procedures done in the office for no extra charge.

His role in helping his father in the race for governor and in his bid for lieutenant governor is to focus on the health care topic, the younger Umbehr said in a short speech at the convention Saturday.

“It will be exciting,” Josh Umbehr said of the race.

Members at the convention also voted to include four planks to their party platform that in general supports limited government.

They include legalization of growing hemp as a farm crop, abolition of the death penalty, changes in instructions to juries to notify them that they can rule in the validity of laws in cases and creating a system for voter-sponsored initiatives and referendums at the statewide level.

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