Orman launches Senate bid as independent

Orman launches Senate bid as independent

The Hutchinson News - Mary Clarkin

Olathe businessman Greg Orman is banking on voters’ frustration with partisanship on Capitol Hill as he runs as an independent for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts.

Orman’s name won’t appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. If his campaign’s petition gathers at least 5,000 signatures of registered Kansas voters by Aug. 4, he will gain a spot on the November ballot, along with the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian candidates.

Currently, the 100-member U.S. Senate has two independents: Sens. Angus King, Maine, and Bernie Sanders, Vermont.

Running a nonpartisan campaign “is actually quite liberating,” Orman said during a stop Thursday at The News. He doesn’t have to be concerned with how his aims to make higher education and health care more affordable and to streamline the tax code mesh with political party bosses, he said.

“I consider myself fiscally conservative and socially tolerant,” Orman said.

For about 13 of the last 14 years, Orman said, he has been registered as unaffiliated. He has supported Republicans and Democrats, but he’s contributed more to independent causes, he said. He declined to reveal how he voted in the 2012 presidential race between Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, saying he believed in the sanctity of the ballot.

In 2007, Orman prepared to run as a Democrat against Roberts. “I just didn’t feel comfortable running with a party label,” he said, and he soon withdrew from the race. Democrat Jim Slattery ultimately lost to Roberts in 2008.

“We’re sending the worst from both parties” to Washington, as Orman sees it. “I think the path we’re on as a country is a dangerous one,” he said, that threatens the middle class.

With the Senate narrowly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Orman thinks “it is clear that a real problem-solver can have an impact.”

Orman started Environmental Lighting Concepts, later selling a portion of it to Kansas City Power and Light. The 46-year-old Orman has never held elective office, “but I view that actually as a good thing. I don’t have experience running up a $17-trillion debt,” he said.

“I think we’re going to have the resources to fund a competitive campaign,” Orman said, and he’s also trying to build a coalition of supporters. Among those accompanying Orman on his tour was Aaron Estabrook, of the Moderate Party of Kansas.

Running as an independent “creates a little more of a challenge,” Orman said. For voters to veer from a Republican or Democrat, “they really have to genuinely believe in the candidate,” he said.

“There has to be a perception in the voter’s mind that they’re not throwing their vote away,” Orman said.

In addition to Roberts and Orman, others running for the Senate seat are: Republicans: Milton Wolf, Leawood; Alvin Zahnter, Russell; and D.J. Smith, Osawatomie; Democrats: Chad Taylor, Topeka, and Patrick Wiesner, Lawrence; and Libertarian Randall Batson, Wichita.

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