It’s been just over two weeks since Greg Orman filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee in the Kansas governor’s race and already he is bringing Republican and Democrat insiders together.
What’s quickly become clear is that both political parties are threatened by Orman’s candidacy. They rightly view him as a disruptor of the status quo and their attacks demonstrate that they know he can win. And while the people of Kansas would be the winners under a Gov. Orman — a governor who would put the people ahead of partisanship — the political establishment would be the losers, and they don’t want that.
So, now both political party establishments are unsurprisingly throwing marbles at Orman’s feet and in the process demonstrating why a large plurality of voters nationally have left both major parties and are unaffiliated today. These voters are tired of partisan point scoring and that’s exactly why Orman is such a threat to both parties and stands such a good chance of winning the governorship.
I’ve been around the block a time or two, and either through providence or good judgment have been associated with two well-known independent Republicans: John McCain and John Kasich. In turning his back on the party bosses and their aligned special interests, Orman continues the tradition of the Straight Talk Express and brings Kansas sorely missed commonsense problem-solving.
The attack most proffered by Democratic Party insiders and their supporters in the Democratic media (in Kansas, primarily a couple of KU professors and a handful of Kansas City Star opinion writers) seems to be that Orman’s candidacy guarantees a Kris Kobach governorship. Of course this argument fails on its face — Kobach is the twice-elected secretary of state, defeating the Democratic candidate by roughly 20 points each time. They had their shot at Kobach, who is unfit to hold any office, and failed badly.
Having watched the social media chatter over the last two weeks, it seems to me that that party leaders approached Orman directly and asked that he run as a Democrat. They likely painted the picture that running as a Democrat gave Orman an easy road to Cedar Crest. The fact that Orman bucked both parties shows he’s a genuine independent who wants to serve the voters, not party bosses and special interests.
Independents who eschew the major parties are having their day, including Bill Walker, the independent governor of Alaska, and several other strongly viable gubernatorial candidates in 2018. And it’s not just independent voters who are propelling these candidates. Gallup reports that fully 49 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats want a third party to shake up a broken partisan system.
I personally believe Orman has a very viable path to the governorship. He’s smart, hard-working, and dedicated to Kansas. He’s proven that he has the ability to raise the funds necessary to run a compelling campaign. He’s likely learned lessons from his prior race and will use those to fine tune his campaign. Importantly, he’s not going to face the hurricane-like headwinds he did in 2014 — with tens of millions of dollars of outside money and an unprecedented Republican rescue effort. No one will care who Orman will caucus with, because the governor doesn’t caucus. A good governor listens and leads.
Maybe the people who should be most angry about the attacks on Orman are the voters themselves. Voters are ready for something very different. They are tired of being ignored. They are tired of being taken for granted by parties who think they are owed allegiance. And how else can a voter take it when a party insider or party-aligned pundit claims an independent will “steal” votes from one party or another? The ballot is the property of the voters, not the parties. It can’t be stolen, only earned.
If Orman earns those votes, he isn’t guilty of theft, but rather of giving voters what they desperately want — a leader who will put them first.
John Weaver led John McCain’s political operation for 11 years and is the chief strategist for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He does not work for the Greg Orman campaign.