Independent candidate launches bid for Roberts seat

Independent candidate launches bid for Roberts seat

The Topeka-Capital Journal - Andy Marso

Greg Orman, a businessman from Olathe, said that in running as an Independent for a seat in the U.S. Senate he can offer voters a new path to cooperation and effective government currently lacking in Washington, D.C.’s hyper-partisan environment.

Orman, 45, kicked off his bid for U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts' seat Wednesday with stops in several cities, including Topeka.

In a news conference at the Statehouse he called himself a "common-sense problem-solver" disillusioned by congressional gridlock.

"We've got problems we need to solve in this country that the politicians don't want to solve," Orman said. "I think everyone knows Washington is broken."

As an Independent, Orman will need to gather 5,000 signatures to join the winners of a crowded primary field that includes Democrats Chad Taylor and Patrick Wiesner and Republicans D.J. Smith, Milton Wolf, Alvin Zahnter and Roberts.

Orman, owner of Combat Brands boxing equipment in Lenexa, said he planned to collect far more than that.

Orman announced an intent to campaign as a Democrat against Roberts in 2007, but he dropped out of the race before the 2008 election.

He since has founded a nonpartisan group called the "Common Sense Coalition."

"For me, I never felt completely comfortable in either party," Orman said. "I'm fiscally responsible, socially tolerant."

Orman was joined Wednesday by a four-man campaign team that included Aaron Estabrook, a Manhattan school board member and co-founder of the Moderate Party of Kansas political action committee. Orman's media contact, Sam Edelen, has worked on campaigns in Kentucky, Tennessee and San Diego.

There are two Independents among the 100 current U.S. senators: Angus King, of Maine, and Bernie Sanders, of New Hampshire. Both caucus with Democrats, the majority party.

When asked with whom he would caucus if elected, Orman said his preference would be for a U.S. Senate in which neither party held the majority and therefore would have to hammer out bills together.

Orman also said he would favor election reforms like establishing a nonpartisan redistricting committee to draw U.S. House districts and initiating a "top two" open primaries system in which the two leading vote-getters, regardless of party, would emerge from the primary and square off in the general election.

"It forces candidates to think about the whole electorate instead of a small sliver of the electorate," Orman said.

On divisive issues like the federal health care reforms initiated by President Barack Obama, Orman said fighting among the parties has prevented practical reform.

"We had a health care affordability issue before the Affordable Care Act and we have a health care affordability issue today," Orman said.

He said his campaign soon will release a detailed health care proposal focused in part on shifting from a fee-for-service delivery model to a pay-for-performance model.

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