Olathe businessman Greg Orman, who staged a strong independent run for U.S. Senate three years ago, is putting together a campaign organization to run for governor of Kansas in next year’s election.
Jim Jonas, a friend of Orman’s who managed his 2014 campaign, confirmed Monday that Orman has done preliminary polling in the governor’s race and has interviewed potential campaign staff. “But to my knowledge, Greg has not made a final decision on whether or not to run,” he said.
Orman has been widely mentioned as a potential governor candidate amid polls showing public dissatisfaction with both political parties.
Last year, Orman wrote a book, “A Declaration of Independents,” that makes the case that entrenched partisanship has rigged the governmental system for the benefit of narrow special interests that fund campaigns.
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Political science professors say an Orman run would probably be good news for the Republican candidate because independents tend to draw more votes from Democratic candidates.
Patrick Miller of the University of Kansas said Republican strategists “should be popping champagne bottles with the news of Orman running.”
Miller said Orman received support from the same pool of voters as Democrat Paul Davis did in his campaign for governor in 2014. “It’s very much just the Davis vote,” Miller said.
In that year, in his only run for public office, Orman lost to Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts by 11 percentage points. It is the closest anyone has come to unseating Roberts in a congressional career spanning four decades. The Democratic nominee in that race dropped out, giving Orman a one-on-one match-up.
Orman ran close to or slightly ahead of Roberts in the state’s populous areas, but trailed in western Kansas where Roberts made a name for himself as a 16-year congressman before running statewide for Senate in 1997.
Friends University political scientist Russell Fox agreed independent candidacies almost always take more votes from Democrats than Republicans in Kansas. However, he said that could vary if Republicans nominate a candidate with high negatives in the more moderate side of the party.
Gov. Sam Brownback is term-limited and on his way to an ambassadorship with the Trump administration. His presumed successor, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, is running and will have about a year as governor under his belt by the election.
The crowded GOP primary field includes Secretary of State Kris Kobach; Jim Barnett, a former state senator and the GOP’s governor nominee in 2006; Wichita businessman Wink Hartman; former state Rep. Mark Hutton; and former state Rep. Ed O’Malley, now with the Kansas Leadership Center.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and former legislator and Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty are seeking the Democratic nomination.