United States Senate seats from Kansas have comprised of a constant stream of Republican politicians since George McGill (D) lost his re-election bid in 1938. Kansas is considered, at least in national politics, a safe, solid-red state.
Greg Orman, an independent candidate, is trying to change this.
The Rothenberg Political Report considers Kansas to be one of 13 (out of 15 currently held by Republicans) "safe" U.S. Senate seats in this election cycle. Yet, new research is showing that Kansans are becoming increasingly weary of party politics.According to a Hamilton Campaigns report issued on June 2, 96 percent of Kansans felt that politicians should support good ideas, not just ones that "fit" with Democratic or Republican ideals.
The current incumbent, Pat Roberts, has spent the last 47 years in Washington and has become the quintessential "career politician." The label has painted a bulls-eye on his seat, even within his own party. Milton Wolf, a tea party candidate, is actively targeting Roberts as an out-of-touch citizen of Washington.
This infighting, in part, is fueling the forecast that Kansas is ready for an independent candidate, according to Hamilton Campaigns.
A recent Gallup poll shows that America's faith in Congress is at an all-time low -- only 7 percent have confidence in Congress. This demonstrates the need and increases chances of success for independent candidates across America.
During a recent interview for IVN, Mr. Orman discussed the independent climate in Kansas:
Every candidate has a story. Your biography states that you have spent many years as a disillusioned Republican and Democrat -- how is your story a reflection of state and national politics?
"The expectation in Kansas is that candidates run under a party label," Orman said.
He continued to say that this expectation does not line up with a new Gallup poll showing that 42 percent of Americans consider themselves independent voters. He was once hopeful that a two-party system could find solutions, but it has become clear that neither party represents the values that average Americans share.
Orman describes himself as a fiscally conservative, socially tolerant candidate -- and too often voters with mixed politics cannot find a home within either party.
Plenty of research has shown that the average American's political opinion is a blend of conservative and liberal ideals. While most voters with a party affiliation consider themselves one or the other, how does an independent candidate strive to educate voters on the significant issues that we seem to have in common?
"Trying to get past party politics and party 'catch-phrases' and getting voters to think in problem solving terms is the most critical thing," Orman replied.
Most people can agree that we have a broken system with too much waste. What is needed are politicians who understand voters and support common-sense solutions to the nation's problems.
We need politicians who are strong enough to support important ideas, regardless of the source. Polling numbers indicate that 80 percent of Kansans want our politicians to support problem-solving and to give up on partisan antics.
Are people resistant to the idea that we are a blend of politics?
"There is definitely a strong psychological connection to party affiliations," Orman said.
Voters very strongly identify with parties, but often this identification is not rooted in the issues. Many belong to a party because of family traditions or based on the commonly held beliefs of their friends.Many voters are fiscally conservative, while socially tolerant (or the opposite), and the differences between personal belief and party loyalty become evident once the issues start being directly addressed.
"Party affiliation is often more of an historical identification," he added.
Often party affiliation is a sense of where we are from than a reflection of who we are today.
What is the most significant political issue in Kansas today?
"The lack of a growing economy is the most significant issue facing Kansas and our nation today," Orman said. "It creates a cascade effect leading to increases in Social Security disability claims, healthcare, and an inability to properly educate our children."
As a business owner, he also discussed how we have a health care system that we cannot afford. Each year for the past 15 years, health care expenses have risen. These increases often come at the expense of better wages for employees.
How do current election laws affect independent candidates trying to launch campaigns in Kansas?
"The single greatest hurdle facing an independent candidate is getting the 5,000 signatures on the petition to allow his or her name to be on the ballot," Orman commented. "This is not imposed on party candidates."Orman also stated the rules for this petition stipulate county specific forms (there are 105 counties in Kansas) and the petition has to be signed in person with a witness -- all of which makes the disallowance of signatures very easy.
Another major disadvantage to independents came in 1901 in Kansas with the passage of Antifusion Laws. Prior to this, according to Mr. Orman, third parties thrived in Kansas.
Before the 1901 law, candidates could run under more than one party. Basically, this allowed candidates to easily market themselves to voters based on their political values -- they could state that they were a Populist and a Republican (or any other combination).
The introduction of state administered, Australian balloting essentially made the two-party system an established reality in Kansas.
Research has shown that it is becoming more and more difficult for either party to win a national election without support of those identified as independents. How strong is the independent base in Kansas.
"Very strong. Twenty-nine percent of registered voters in Kansas are registered as unaffiliated," Orman said.
As the two parties become more polarized, voters are becoming more aware of the fact that if they have mixed views, they are without a political home.
How does political infighting within "the party" affect the independent vote?
"Political infighting in general, both Republican and Democrat, turns off voters and makes them cynical. Politics today has changed, where the 'art of persuasion' has become the 'art of misinformation,'" Orman replied.We need to send problem-solvers, not the one who totes the party-line the best.
We need to send people to Washington who have faced important political issues in the private sector -- like rising health care costs, government intervention, and budgeting because of a slumping economy. The career politician has never faced these issues.
One of the significant battles being fought in this election is the issue of term limits. Sen. Roberts has been in the Senate since 1997. There have been quips and accusations that he is no longer a citizen of Kansas -- but a citizen of Washington, D.C., who has lost his way. Are term limits a good idea from an independent perspective?
"Politics is not something that was intended to take over your life," Orman remarked. "It was only meant to be a brief period of time."
Too many politicians don't know what to do if they weren't a politician anymore. This leads to politicians making choices based solely on what will get them re-elected. Making choices based solely on the outcome of the next election has one result, "public service becomes self-service."
More information about the campaign can be found on the Greg Orman for U.S. Senate website, including a full biography, the issues Mr Orman finds important, along with multimedia and press releases.
Photo Credit: Greg Orman / Facebook