Independent begins ads in US Senate race in Kansas

Independent begins ads in US Senate race in Kansas

John Hanna
Associcated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. — A northeast Kansas businessman seeking a spot on the ballot for U.S. Senate as an independent candidate launched statewide television and radio ads Thursday suggesting both major political parties are responsible for dysfunction in Washington.

Greg Orman of Olathe, who's hoping to run for the seat held by three-term Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, told The Associated Press he's starting the ad campaign because the general election is less than four months away. He said he's confident his supporters will gather the signatures needed to get him on the ballot.

"The mood in the country is trending towards us. Washington's broken, and people are sick of the dysfunction," Orman said. "They are very frustrated with what's going on."

Campaigns by independent candidates for statewide offices are unusual in Kansas, and Orman's decision to launch television advertising ahead of securing a spot on the ballot makes his campaign even more atypical.

The ads include one 60-second and two 30-second television spots, all emphasizing his message that Washington has become too partisan to solve the nation's problems. One of the 30-second spots shows blue- and red-shirted teams in a tug-of-war contest with no apparent winner.

Orman's campaign refused to say how much it's spending on the ads or how long they'll run, except to say that ads will run on radio, cable and broadcast television statewide.

Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis said Orman's actions show Roberts is vulnerable.

"Any candidate who has the ability to raise money and get his name out there has a shot at Pat Roberts," Loomis said.

Republicans have won every U.S. Senate race since 1932. State GOP Executive Director Clay Barker dismissed the suggestion that Roberts is vulnerable.

He said of Orman, "He's got a real hard hill to climb as an independent."

As an independent, Orman is required by state law to gather the signatures of at least 5,000 registered voters on petitions by Aug. 4, the day before the state's primary election, in order to obtain a spot on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election. The last independent candidate for the U.S. Senate was Christina Campbell-Cline, a Wichita accountant, in 1992, and she received 4 percent of the vote.

Orman's campaign said he's raised about $600,000 in cash contributions — none of it from personal funds — since beginning less than two months ago. He also said he's not accepting contributions from political action committees.

Roberts faces an aggressive challenge in the Republican primary from a tea party challenger, Milton Wolf, a Leawood radiologist, with former mail carrier Alvin Zahnter of Russell and homemaker D.J. Smith of Osawatomie also in the race. Two Democrats are running, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor and Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner.

Orman is co-founder of Denali Partners, a business capital and management services firm. In 2010, he helped create the Common Sense Coalition, a nonprofit group that describes itself as an advocate for "the sensible center." Orman briefly was a U.S. Senate candidate in 2007, when Roberts was preparing to seek his third term, but dropped out early in 2008.

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