Independent businessman Greg Orman looks like he may be taking another shot at defeating two-party politics in Kansas -- this time for governor. Orman’s campaign announced he has formed an exploratory committee and has just launched a new website.
In a state that has been given an F rating from the Center for Public Integrity on almost everything from ethics to transparency to accountability, partisan Republicans and Democrats have treated the legislature and courtrooms more like a political war zone than a government.
But fed up with the partisan status quo, a monumental independent surge has exploded over the last few years, expanding from the local level to the state legislature. At the forefront of this independent movement is Greg Orman.
Orman ran for US Senate as an independent in 2014 and nearly beat Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, a well financed veteran incumbent with major party support. The Democratic Party candidate, Chad Taylor, withdrew his name after lackluster fundraising efforts and poor polling numbers -- setting up a two-person race between Orman and Roberts.
Ironically, one of Orman’s likely opponents in the 2018 general election, Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, tried unsuccessfully to keep Taylor’s name on the ballot. No question, with Taylor on the ballot, votes would have been taken away from Orman.
Taylor was forced to seek intervention from the Kansas Supreme Court to have his name removed from the Senate ballot, and the court ruled in his favor.
In 2014, the Republican Party pulled out all the stops to cast Greg Orman as a Democrat in disguise -- giving voters a reason to question his authentic credentials as an independent. And Vice President Joe Biden didn’t help Orman’s cause when he made an unsupported assertion that Orman would caucus with Democrats just before election day.
This goes to show how difficult it can be to overcome the two-party narrative. Orman literally wrote the book on how to take on the two-party machine, A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream.
Orman has pointed to a failure by both major political parties as the fundamental source of some of the nation’s biggest problems -- including health care, immigration, and the national debt.
Though an Orman win could send shockwaves through the two-party narrative, it would not be the first time an independent has pierced the partisan veil.
Bill Walker, for example, is an incumbent independent governor in Alaska. There are two independents serving in the US Senate -- Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine). The number of independent and third party state legislators has risen 40% in three years.
“I see it as the four-minute mile: it is impossible to do until somebody does it,” Orman has said about defeating both major parties.
Today, almost half of the American electorate considers itself independent of the two major parties. But from pollsters to pundits, few have been able to really define what it means to be an independent.
“I’m a political Independent for one really simple reason – I don’t believe the current system is working for the American people or the citizens of Kansas. The two major parties seem to care more about seeing the other party fail than they care about our country succeeding,” says Orman.
In 2018, we will see if independent voters fed up with partisan politics will embrace this message and help Orman run that four-minute mile.