By CRISTINA JANNEY
Kali Barnett, Democratic candidate for the Kansas 1st District U.S House seat, was in Hays on Tuesday meeting with the Young Democrats and FHSU professors on policy.
Barnett, 34, of Garden City is taking time off from her job as a music teacher to run for the House.
From a third-generation farm family, Barnett said she understands the plight of farmers in the recent trade war.
“It is a really challenging situation we are in,” Barnett said. “I have worked really hard, especially in the last few weeks. I have met with several professors. This afternoon, I am meeting with the ag professor here at Fort Hays State University and working very hard to learn from the experts on ag policy and really have a positive movement for our farmers and support for the future.”
As a teacher, Barnett said she struggled to keep funding for her position as a teacher during the Brownback years.
On the national level in education, she said, “It is really challenging as a teacher to have someone like Betsy DeVos in a leadership position, and it is one of the biggest reasons why I am running.”
Barnett has worked in both public and charter schools, but she said support of charter schools should not come at the expense of public schools.
Barnett stopped short of suggesting a specific fix for health care.
“Health care is a combined issue,” she said. “Health care for me is really taking care of our mind, our body and our soul. We need to make sure we are supporting our mental health care facilities and making sure that our insurances are providing options for people wanting to receive different types of services.
“We need to make sure our insurance system is serving all people — people who have pre-existing positions and emergencies. We need to make sure that our health care facilities remain open, especially here in western Kansas. We cannot allow our hospitals and clinics to not be funded and be closed.”
She continued, “I know even some of my close family use Obamacare as we call it,” she said. “It is not something that we can end today. I do think we can put things in place for the future that would be much more sustainable for working families and much more affordable.”
Growing up in Garden City, Barnett said she learned to appreciate other cultures.
“For me, immigration, the No. 1 thing we need to do right now is love our neighbors,” she said. “We need to make sure we are being inclusive, not exclusive. We are hearing a lot of messages that are making people scared. … It is a lot about embracing the people that we have and the cultures that we have and making sure with immigration policy that we are keeping the United States safe, but it is really making sure that we are taking care of the people who are here.”
Barnett does not have foreign policy experience, but she said she would look to experts to keep the nation safe.
Barnett said she is excited to be bringing a woman’s perceptive to the race. She is the first Democratic woman to file in Kansas’ 1st District. She said she was inspired by Kathryn O’Loughlin, who was elected in 1932 to Congress in what was then western Kansas’ 6th District. O’Loughlin Elementary School in Hays is named for her.
“In a lot of ways, we are already changing the way our Kansas history is written,” she said.
When O’Loughlin was elected, Barnett said Kansas was in a similar political climate. Farmers were frustrated. People were frustrated with the economy.
“It is extremely exciting for me to be in a place with this campaign that as a country we are empowering more women to have a really strong voice. That is what I want to do as a representative is be a voice for our community,” she said. “I want to work really hard to build policy and support policy in Washington, so all of us here in Kansas and across the United States, including teachers and farmers and everyday working members of society like you and me, [can] have a better future.”