‘It’s very difficult to spoil a rotten system’: Orman seeks governorship as independent



Throughout his journey of frustration with party politics, independent governor’s candidate Greg Orman has been both a registered Republican and a registered Democrat.

“I’ve tried both parties,” Orman said. I’ve generally been very disappointed.”

A 2017 Gallup study found that just 34 percent of Americans feel the existing parties do an adequate job representing the American people. Sixty-one percent think a third major party is needed.

“The interests of average Americans have a near-zero impact on public policy,” Orman said. “Americans feel that they’re not being listened to. It’s a system that’s not delivering an improved standard of living.”

Orman, who nearly upset incumbent Pat Roberts in Kansas’s 2014 U.S. Senate race, has never held public office.

“I’m a private sector person,” Orman said. “I believe that competition is good — that competition leads to better results for consumers and more accountability for the companies that are competing.”

He said bringing that same level of competition to government in the form of major party alternatives will benefit the people of Kansas.

“Historically, all the great, big political movements started in Kansas,” Orman said. “Prohibition, populism, the Bull Moose — you know, it’s safe to say that the issue that brought our nation to the brink of the Civil War was whether or not Kansas would be admitted as a free state.”

“Kansas can bring this change to America.”

In a time of intense polarization and partisanship, Orman said Kansans from across the political spectrum have more in common than they might think.

“The way we campaign has a tendency to divide people, and it doesn’t recognize the real common ground that exists,” Orman said. “As an example, traveling the state of Kansas, I’ve met a lot of pro-choice voters, I’ve met a lot of pro-life voters. I haven’t met a lot of pro-abortion voters. Most Kansans agree we would like to see fewer abortions, and so we need to work with that.”

Orman said Kansas should follow Colorado’s lead — giving women seeking birth control access to a long-lasting option. In the six years following the implementation of such a program in 2009, the teen abortion rate in Colorado was cut nearly in half.

“There’s a lot of common ground on that issue we can work with,” Orman said. “The same thing on guns.”

Orman, a gun owner himself, said loopholes in the reporting system must be closed and that everyone who purchases a firearm should be subject to a background check to keep weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, people who have been sentenced to more than a year in prison, and people suffering from mental illness.

“I don’t want those people owning guns, but you know what? The vast majority of gun owners agree with me on that,” Orman said. “The vast majority of gun owners also agree that to get a concealed carry permit, you should have to have some training.”

Orman was open in his criticism of former Gov. Sam Brownback’s now-repealed signature tax cuts.

“Where I really fault Gov. Brownback was when it was clear that the Brownback-Colyer tax plan wasn’t working, they didn’t change course,” Orman said. “You never do that in the private sector. Companies in the private sector that ignore inconvenient facts go out of business.”

Orman said that, without adjusting the level of taxation, Kansas can manage its resources more effectively. He provided one example in the realm of criminal justice.

“Right now, we actually spend a lot of money incarcerating people for buying a dime bag of weed,” Orman said.

“We ultimately try them, convict them potentially, then put them into the system for what is arguably a victimless crime.”

Orman said he would advocate for making recreational marijuana use a ticketed offense — the same as if you were caught speeding.

One of Orman’s signature issues is openness in government. He said he plans to make Kansas government “the most transparent, effective, and accountable government in the nation.”

Some of the measures he has proposed include holding weekly office hours and monthly telephone town hall meetings, instating annual government performance report cards, and banning lobbyists from making contributions to state legislators and elected state officeholders.

The Orman campaign does not accept contributions from lobbyists or political action committees.

As an independent, Orman will forego the Aug. 7 primary election. To make it on the November ballot, his campaign must collect 5,000 signatures on a petition before Aug. 6. Orman said he’s at well over 5,000 signatures now but plans to collect until the deadline.

An online “Ditch Greg Orman” ad shows signees how to remove their name from the petition.

“There are people who I think would like to not see me on the ballot,” Orman said. “They’d like to avoid competition. They’d like to avoid electoral accountability.”

Critics have characterized Orman as a kingmaker who could pull just enough votes away from one major-party candidate to get the other elected. The independent rejects the notion he’s playing spoiler.

“It’s very difficult to spoil a rotten system,” Orman said.

When pressed, Orman would not say whether he had a preference between a Republican or a Democratic challenger winning in November.

“I’m not going to get into a debate about hypothetically if this happened or if that matchup were there,” Orman said.

“The only way to really waste you vote is, in my mind, another vote for one more Democrat or one more Republican.”

Orman noted that there are more unaffiliated voters registered in Kansas than Democrats. He said motivating these voters and presenting an appealing option for disenfranchised Republicans and Democrats will be key to his success in November.

“I’m confident we’re going to win.”