Jim Barnett is the Republican standout in the Kansas governor’s race

Jim Barnett, Republican candidate for Kansas governor
Jim Barnett, Republican candidate for Kansas governor The Wichita Eagle

Maybe the absence of reliable polling in this year’s Kansas gubernatorial race isn’t all bad, especially since “reliable polling” is fast becoming an oxymoron.

The conventional wisdom holds that physician and former state Sen. Jim Barnett has almost no chance of winning the Republican nomination in Tuesday’s primary. But then, conventional wisdom also held that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential race, not just in 2016 but in 2008. And Donald Trump, of course, was not to be taken seriously as a candidate; everyone knew that.

Instead of telling you what you already know, including which contenders analysts and operatives think will win, The Kansas City Star is endorsing the candidate who should win, and who would win if Kansans refused to give in to fear. That’s without any doubt Barnett.

Yes, 64-year-old Barnett was his party’s nominee more than a decade ago, and then lost to incumbent Democrat Kathleen Sebelius. But no candidate in any 2018 race who met with The Star editorial board showed a more impressive grasp of the issues. He has both the vision and eyes-wide-open determination it will take to turn poor ailing Kansas around after the self-inflicted disaster of the Brownback-Colyer years.

Our hot-headed secretary of state, Kris Kobach, promises to push for tax cuts that would not work any better this time around than they did under Brownback. He wants to slash spending further, when what Kansas so desperately needs is to repair rather than pare.

Then there’s Gov. Jeff Colyer, who as Sam Brownback’s lieutenant governor gave us the mess that is KanCare. His unofficial campaign slogan seems to be “lesser of two evils.” Because according to him, he’s the only candidate who can keep Governor Kobach from taking up where Sam Brownback left off. But it’s thinking like that — blocking the worst rather than choosing the best — that elects so many subpar so-called public servants.

Both Colyer and Kobach declined to meet with The Star editorial board ahead of our endorsement.

Though the current governor is not as controversial or impractical as Kobach, they differ more in approach than on the issues. Kobach has said he would have vetoed the increase in school funding required by the Kansas Supreme Court, for instance, while Colyer said he only wished he could have done that, but was hamstrung by the law.

Thank goodness. But just a little less wrongheaded is not good enough for us, and it shouldn’t be for you, either.

Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, who is running as a CPA who will apply a business-minded approach to cutting every state agency, did not seem to grow very much over the course of his campaign. He still gives some variation on the same response to every question, which is that if elected, as a CPA he’ll know what to do.

Only Barnett sees the necessity of rebuilding Kansas by investing: “Let’s educate kids, build roads and pass on something.” He gets how crucial it is to expand Medicaid, and that the idea of work requirements for recipients — the sick and the elderly, the pregnant and the poor — “is a bogus notion.” He sees tariffs as too high-risk and understands that “the next governor will have to create a functioning state government.”

He knows what we all know, unless we’re kidding ourselves, which is that to dig Kansas out of the hole that Brownback and Colyer dug with deep cuts to taxes, we’re going to have to raise them again.

He’s conservative, principled and willing to say what no one wants to hear: “We have to spend money and balance the budget.” Because he refused to fill out the NRA candidate questionnaire, they gave him an “F.” But to prevent gun violence in schools, he said, “they need cameras, locked doors between rooms and consultants,” all of which cost money, as does the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

What Barnett is not, as he says, is either “Brownback Lite, or worse, Kris Kobach.” We have no doubt that if elected — and that’s up to you, after all — Jim Barnett would do good things for Kansas.