Keen A. Umbehr

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Keen A. Umbehr
Keen Umbehr.jpg
Former candidate for
Governor of Kansas
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Bachelor'sKansas State University (2001) (Political Science)
J.D.Washburn University School of Law (2005)
Date of birthNovember 8, 1958
Place of birthGreat Bend, Kansas
Personal website
Campaign website
Keen A. Umbehr (b. November 8, 1958, in Great Bend, KS) was a Libertarian candidate for Governor of Kansas in the 2014 elections.[1] He ran on a single ticket with his son and lieutenant governor mate Josh Umbehr in the general election. They faced the Republican ticket of incumbents Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer and the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking in the general election. Keen A. Umbehr lost the general election on November 4, 2014.


Born in Great Bend, Kan., 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 working on his uncle's farm in Alma, Kan. 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, Kan. 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, Minn. 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. 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. He later relocated his office to a building located on the corner of 4th and Main Street in his hometown of Alma.

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 ran 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. They faced the Republican ticket of incumbents Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer and the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking in the general election. The general election took place November 4, 2014.


Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngSam Brownback/Jeff Colyer Incumbent 49.8% 433,196
     Democratic Paul Davis/Jill Docking 46.1% 401,100
     Libertarian Keen Umbehr/Josh Umbehr 4% 35,206
Total Votes 869,502
Election Results via Kansas Secretary of State.

Race background

Candidate filing period

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.[5][6]

Highly competitive race

This contest was considered to be highly competitive, with match-up polls and race ratings dating back to the fall of 2013 underscoring the legitimacy of Davis' threat. One of the first publications 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, "well shy of 50 percent."[7] Indeed, Brownback's approval ratings had been hovering around 35 percent since January 2012.[8]

Kansas was 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.[9][10][11]

Republican endorsements for Davis

By July 2014, Brownback's troubles crested when over 100 influential Republicans defected to the Davis campaign. The self-styled "Republicans for Kansas Values," comprised of GOP retirees and current officeholders, explained the unorthodox endorsement of Brownback's Democratic challenger as a response to steep cuts to education funding and tax cuts that contributed to a $340 million budget shortfall during the 2014 fiscal year.[12] 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.[13] Polling in July also indicated that 29 percent of Republicans would vote for Davis, which marked a five-point increase from the previous month. These polls, conducted by Survey USA/KSN News, also showed Brownback losing by an average of seven points. In contrast, YouGov poll in July that showed a 10-point lead for Brownback. Polling experts and representatives of each campaign commented on how divergent polling methodologies can yield seemingly irreconcilable results. In this case, such disparities caused a rise in skepticism about the reliability of polling data in the final approach to the November general election, which Brownback ultimately won.[14]

Campaign themes

Umbehr's campaign website highlights the following themes:[15]

  • 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 - All candidates
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
Fort Hays State University
September 10-27, 2014
NBC News/Marist Poll
October 2014
October 2-5, 2014
Public Policy Polling
October 9-12, 2014
Rasmussen Reports
October 20-21, 2014
NBC News/Marist
October 24, 2014
October 28, 2014
AVERAGES 40.96% 44.82% 5.38% 8.92% +/-3.48 903.83
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 - Major party candidates and undecided
Poll Sam Brownback * (R) Paul Davis (D)UndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
New York Times/CBS News/YouGov
{September 20-October 1, 2014)
Gravis Marketing
(September 30-October 1, 2014)
Monmouth University
(October 16-19, 2014)
Gravis Marketing
(October 20-21, 2014)
New York Times/CBS News/YouGov
{October 16-23, 2014)
AVERAGES 43.4% 45.8% 10.6% +/-3.54 1,277.8
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 - Major party candidates, other and undecided
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 - Major party candidates and "third party" category
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


Debate media

September 19 debate
September 19 debate

Sam Brownback (R), Paul Davis (D) and Keen A. Umbehr (L) shared the stage for a debate sponsored by the Johnson County Public Policy Council. All three candidates took turns explaining why their policies would help the state's largest county. Brownback argued that the controversial tax cuts he proposed have already helped the county increase business development. He also took a swipe at Davis for opposing a proposal to school districts in the county more authority over property tax rates. Davis countered that Brownback's tax policies have depleted funds for schools and roads in the county and the Republican proposal for greater tax authority included a provision taking job protections away from educators. Umbehr advocated for elimination of the income tax, favoring a sales tax that would keep more cash on hand for county residents. Brownback and Davis both opposed a tax on professional services in the county, though Brownback questioned the authenticity of the Democratic candidate's position.[16]


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.[17]

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.[18]

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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. The Wichita Eagle, "Physician campaigning as Libertarian dad’s running mate in Kansas governor’s race," May 22, 2014
  6. Keen For Kansas, "Home," accessed October 6, 2013
  7. The Washington Post, "The Fix's top 15 gubernatorial races of 2014," November 15, 2013
  8. Kansas City Star, "Surveys find a hint of election vulnerability in Gov. Sam Brownback," October 29, 2013
  9. University of Virginia Center for Politics, "2014 Governor," accessed July 30, 2014
  10. Governing, "2014 Governors Races: A Look at the Too-Close-to-Call Contests," March 6, 2014
  11. FiveThirtyEight, "Governors’ Races Are Close, But There’s More Upside For Democrats," July 17, 2014
  12. The New York Times, "Kansas Democrats Turn to Data in Governor's Race," July 30, 2014
  13. The Washington Post, "More than 100 Republicans endorse Democrat against Kansas Gov. Brownback (R)," July 15, 2014
  14. The Wichita Eagle, "Polls on the Kansas governor's race vary widely," July 26, 2014
  15. Keen For Kansas: "Issues & Solutions," accessed October 6, 2013
  16. The Kansas City Star, " At debate, Kansas gubernatorial candidates focus on Johnson County," September 19, 2014
  17. Kansas Secretary of State, "Official Primary Candidate List," accessed June 28, 2012
  18. Keen A. Umbehr, Attorney at Law: "About," accessed October 15, 2013