Keen A. Umbehr

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Keen A. Umbehr
Keen Umbehr.jpg
Candidate for
Governor of Kansas
Elections and appointments
Next generalNovember 4, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Bachelor'sKansas State University (2001)
J.D.Washburn University School of Law (2005)
BirthdayNovember 8, 1958
Place of birthGreat Bend, Kansas
Personal website
Campaign website
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Keen A. Umbehr (b. November 8, 1958, in Great Bend, Kansas) is a Libertarian candidate for Governor of Kansas in the 2014 elections.[1] The general election takes place November 4, 2014.


Born in Great Bend, Kansas, Umbehr grew up around the world as his father's job required the family to live abroad. He lived in Nigeria, Angola, Africa, Singapore and London. Beginning in the 7th grade, Umbehr spent his summers in Alma, Kansas working on his uncle's farm. Upon graduation from high school, he returned to Kansas to start his professional career.[2]

In 1979, Umbehr began working for the Wabaunsee County Weed Department and later became Director. In 1981, he was the successful bidder on a trash collection contract which included six of the seven towns in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. Later that same year he opened a self-service car wash. He owned and operated the trash collection business and car wash for nearly 18 years. In later years, Umbehr started a tire disposal business and opened a restaurant, both of which were eventually sold.[2] Umbehr also opened his own private law practice in 2005.[3]

Umbehr attended one semester of college in 1977 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota before dropping out. In 1999, at the age of 40, he returned to college at Kansas State University in January of 1999. He graduated cum laude three years later on December 8, 2001, earning a B.S. in political science.[2] Umbehr then attended law school at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. He graduated on May 14, 2005, and passed the bar the following summer. He was sworn in on September 30, 2005, and opened a private law practice in Topeka, Kansas. He later relocated his office to a building located on the corner of 4th and Main Street in his hometown of Alma, Kansas.

In 1991, Umbehr filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 First Amendment lawsuit alleging that the Wabaunsee County Commissioners violated his First Amendment right of free speech by terminating his trash collection contract in retaliation for newspaper articles he wrote which were critical of the Board of County Commissioners. On June 28, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Umbehr's favor, establishing the principle that private contractors doing business with the government have the same First Amendment rights and protections as government employees.[4] Umbehr later settled out of court with the Board of County Commissioners.[2]


  • B.S. in political science - Kansas State University (2001)
  • J.D. Washburn University School of Law (2005)



See also: Kansas Gubernatorial and Lieutenant Gubernatorial election, 2014

Umbehr is running for Governor of Kansas in 2014 on the Libertarian ticket. He was nominated at the Kansas Libertarian Party convention in April 2014, along with his son and running mate for Kansas Lieutenant Governor, Josh Umbehr. The general election takes place November 4, 2014.

Campaign themes

Umbehr's campaign website highlights the following themes:[5]

  • Governmental Accountability
Excerpt: "Re-establish the Executive Branch Office of the Ombudsman. This office will investigate citizen and state employees’ claims of agency malfeasance, corruption, criminal conduct and/or wasteful government expenditures. The identities of the individuals reporting said claims shall be held in confidence in order to protect the claimant from governmental/agency retaliation.
  • Governmental Transparency
Excerpt: "Governmental Transparency is a key element in achieving governmental accountability, and can only be attained through statutory revisions of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) and the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA)."
  • State Income Tax Code
Excerpt: "Repeal the current tax code that exempts the 191,000 sole proprietors and LLCs and others from paying any Kansas state income tax."


Governor of Kansas
Poll Sam Brownback* (R) Paul Davis (D)OtherUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
CBS/NYT/YouGov (Without leaners)
July 5-24, 2014
CBS/NYT/YouGov (With leaners)
July 5-24, 2014
August 6-7, 2014
Cole Hargrave Snodgrass (R-Brownback)
August 17-30, 2014
August 18-September 2, 2014
Public Policy Polling (Umbehr supporters reallocated
September 11-14, 2014
AVERAGES 44.83% 42.5% 1.83% 5.83% +/-2.67 994.17
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to
Governor of Kansas
Poll Sam Brownback* (R) Paul Davis (D)Keen Umbehr(L)UndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
SurveyUSA/KSN News Poll
June 19-23, 2014
SurveyUSA/KSN News Poll
July 23, 2014
Public Policy Polling
August 14-17, 2014
September 4-7, 2014
Public Policy Polling
September 11-14, 2014
AVERAGES 39.2% 44.6% 6.2% 10% +/-3.24 1,012.4
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to
Governor of Kansas
Poll Sam Brownback/Jeff Coyler (R) Paul Davis/Jill Docking (D)Third PartyUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
SurveyUSA Poll
(October 23-24, 2013)
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Race background

First term Republican Governor Sam Brownback is seeking re-election in 2014; re-teaming with his 2010 running mate and current Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer for the campaign.

On June 2, the filing window for Republican and Democratic candidates pursuing a place on the 2014 Kansas gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial ballot came to a close. One set of Republicans - led by landscape contractor Jennifer Winn - filed to take on the incumbent duo in the August 5 primary election. Meanwhile, Paul Davis, the state House Minority Leader, along with his running mate Jill Docking, were the only Democratic pair to enter the race, earning a free pass to the general election. Also joining the November lineup in advance of the primary election were Libertarian candidates Keen and Josh Umbehr. The father and son ticket knocked out a single set of opponents for their party's nomination at the Kansas Libertarian Party convention, which took place April 26, 2014.[6][7]

This contest is considered to be highly competitive; match-up polls and race ratings dating back to the fall of 2013 have continually underscored the legitimacy of Davis' threat to Brownback's chances of winning a second term in the 2014 general election. One of the first to declare Brownback's vulnerability was The Washington Post, which named Kansas as one of its top 15 gubernatorial races of 2014, citing Brownback's poor approval ratings as "well shy of 50%."[8] Indeed, Brownback's approval ratings had been hovering around 35% since January 2012.[9]

By July 2014, one month before the primary, Brownback's troubles crested when over 100 influential Republicans defected to Davis' side. The self-styled "Republicans for Kansas Values," comprised of GOP retirees and current officeholders, explained the unorthodox endorsement of Brownback's Democratic challenger was motivated by the governor's push for various steep cuts to education funding as well as tax cuts—resulting in a shortfall of $340 million in tax revenue for the 2014 fiscal year—despite fervent admonitions from the party's centrist contingent.[10] Rather than make it a partisan matter, the race "must be about electing a moderate, commonsense Kansan as governor," stated ex-state Senate president Dick Bond on behalf of the group.[11] Furthermore, the month of July brought the number of registered Republicans who say they would vote for Davis up to 29%, a five point increase from the previous month, according to successive SurveyUSA/KSN News polls, which also showed Brownback trailing Davis by six and eight points, respectively. A YouGov poll conducted contemporaneously over the internet was released soon thereafter and offered a starkly contrasting view of the race, giving Brownback a ten point lead over Davis, his biggest yet this cycle. Polling experts and representatives of each campaign commented on how the polls' differing methodologies can yield seemingly irreconcilable results. In this case, such disparities may cause many who follow the race to regard polls more skeptically as the election season progresses.[12]

Kansas is one of nine gubernatorial seats to be flagged as a toss-up or vulnerable for partisan switch in the 2014 cycle, based on polling data and projections courtesy of The Cook Political Report, FiveThirtyEight, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball and Governing, among others, current as of September 2014.[13][14][15]


See also: Kansas House of Representatives elections, 2012

Umbehr ran in the 2012 election for Kansas House of Representatives District 51 as a republican. Umbehr and Dee McKee were defeated by Ron Highland in the Republican primary on August 7, 2012. Richard Pikul defeated Scott Briggs in the Democratic primary. The general election took place on November 6, 2012.[16]

Kansas House of Representatives, District 51 Republican Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngRon Highland 45.2% 1,499
Dee McKee 31.6% 1,048
Keen A. Umbehr 23.2% 771
Total Votes 3,318


Umbehr married his high school sweetheart, Eileen Van Kirk, on June 10, 1978. They have four sons, four daughter-in-laws and nine grandchildren.[17]

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  1. Keen For Kansas: "Home," accessed October 6, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Information submitted on Ballotpedia's biographical information submission form on October 4, 2013"
  3. Keen For Kansas: "Meet Keen," accessed October 6, 2013
  4. Oyez: "Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr," accessed October 16, 2013
  5. Keen For Kansas: "Issues & Solutions," accessed October 6, 2013
  6. The Wichita Eagle, "Physician campaigning as Libertarian dad’s running mate in Kansas governor’s race," May 22, 2014
  7. Keen For Kansas, "Home," accessed October 6, 2013
  8. The Washington Post, "The Fix's top 15 gubernatorial races of 2014," November 15, 2013
  9. Kansas City Star, "Surveys find a hint of election vulnerability in Gov. Sam Brownback," October 29, 2013
  10. The New York Times, "Kansas Democrats Turn to Data in Governor's Race," July 30, 2014
  11. The Washington Post, "More than 100 Republicans endorse Democrat against Kansas Gov. Brownback (R)," July 15, 2014
  12. The Wichita Eagle, "Polls on the Kansas governor's race vary widely," July 26, 2014
  13. University of Virginia Center for Politics, "2014 Governor," accessed July 30, 2014
  14. Governing, "2014 Governors Races: A Look at the Too-Close-to-Call Contests," March 6, 2014
  15. FiveThirtyEight, "Governors’ Races Are Close, But There’s More Upside For Democrats," July 17, 2014
  16. Kansas Secretary of State, "Official Primary Candidate List," accessed June 28, 2012
  17. Keen A. Umbehr, Attorney at Law: "About," accessed October 15, 2013