WICHITA, Kan. — Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman’s name will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as an independent candidate for Kansas governor, presenting a new obstacle to Democratic efforts to defeat conservative Kris Kobach in November.
The state Secretary of State’s office on Friday posted a short statement saying Orman had presented enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot along with his running mate, John Doll.
Orman, 49, will face Democratic State Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka and Kobach, whose nomination was only settled this week after Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded in a primary with a razor-thin margin of some 350 votes out of more than 316,000 cast.
Orman says he’s in the race to win and rejects suggestions that his role will be as a spoiler who complicates Democrats’ efforts to recapture the governor’s office after eight years of Republicnas.
Democrats were gearing up for a potential legal challenge to Orman’s filing. Many Democrats have worried that Orman will pull votes away from Kelly, 68, making it far easier for Kobach, who is the secretary of state.
The GOP began a clean sweep of statewide and congressional races in 2010. But the state also has a solid bloc of moderate GOP and independent voters and a history over the past 50 years of alternating between electing Republican and Democratic governors. Orman says he can build a coalition starting with voters upset with both parties, and he cites the value of having an independent governor who will lack “natural political enemies.”
Kobach, 52, is a favorite of President Donald Trump and has a national conservative following thanks to his strong stance against illegal immigration and his fervent defense of voter ID laws.
Orman ran as an independent against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014 and did so well in initial polling that the Democratic candidate dropped out to create a better chance of toppling the veteran Republican. Orman lost by 10.5 percentage points after Roberts got campaign help from several GOP stalwarts, including Sarah Palin, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul.
Orman made the ballot by submitting more than 10,000 signatures in early August. He needed 5,000 valid signatures to qualify.
On Orman’s website, he says he supports stronger background checks for gun buyers, ending the sale of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, setting a minimum age of 21 to buy an AR-15 or other semi-automatic weapon and requiring training and licensing for a concealed-carry permit. Orman said he supports the Second Amendment but would like to revisit which types of arms Americans have a right to own,
During the 2014 Senate race, Orman described himself as “pro-choice” and said abortion policy was a matter of settled law and the nation should move on.
Orman’s running mate Doll is from Garden City and left the Republican Party to run for lieutenant governor.
An independent candidate for governor last came close to winning in 1932.
Orman graduated from Princeton in 1991 and founded Environmental Light Concepts, a firm that designed and installed energy-efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial use. The company had more than 120 employees when a majority of it was sold to Kansas City Power and Light in 1996.
After a stint with KCP&L, Orman co-founded Denali Partners, a private equity firm, and later became managing member of Exemplar Holdings LLC, which oversees several innovation companies.