Independent Senate candidate Greg Orman: Political choices don’t need to be either-or

08/30/2014 8:44 PM

08/31/2014 6:55 AM

On his campaign website, Greg Orman calls himself a “common-sense Kansan” who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent “because Washington is broken and we need a new approach.”

On Saturday, he announced that he’s striving to be “a catalyst to that kind of problem-solving” in a two-party political system that creates “a false set of choices” for voters.

“I want to go to Washington to cast off the false choices that extremists have presented us with,” Orman said, addressing a few hundred women attending a banquet at the Women for Kansas “Taking Back Kansas” convention and rally in downtown Wichita on Saturday evening.

“We can have a good economy and a good environment. I believe we can have secure borders and a humane immigration policy. I believe we can have high-quality and affordable health care. I believe we can take care of our most vulnerable citizens while promoting pathways to work.”

He added that the growth in America’s economy will come only if government invests in infrastructure and public education, creating communities where people want to live and work.

“The only way we can get Congress back working again is to cast off partisan labels, preconceived notions and focus solely on problem-solving,” Orman said. “I believe we need to reject the notion that there are only two solutions to every problem. We need to reject the notion that for America to win, one party must fail.”

Orman faces Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, Democrat Chad Taylor and Libertarian Randall Batson in the Nov. 4 general election. He is a Johnson County businessman and co-founder of the Common Sense Coalition, which gives a voice to political independents and other moderates.

His 15-minute speech, delivered at the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview in downtown Wichita, drew several enthusiastic rounds of applause from Women for Kansas, who organized the convention to fight what they call a growing extremism in Kansas government. The group has endorsed Orman, but the candidate on Saturday also asked for individual support from attendees.

Others addressing the crowd during the event were Democrats Jean Schodorf, candidate for Kansas secretary of state; gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis; and Davis’ running mate, Jill Docking.

In addition to calls for increased gender equality and support for a government role in ensuring equal opportunity, Orman called for the transition in American politics from a bipartisan system at odds where “extremism replaced common sense” to one where “a shared sense of purpose and cooperation ... trumps ideology.”

“It’s going to require them to set their partisan labels aside and look at each other across the table as true problem-solvers,” he said. “The way we used to do it.”

Orman, in his speech, described himself as a fiscally responsible and socially tolerant candidate whose approach to public service and public policy stems in large part from what he learned growing up in a single-parent household and his early business experiences.

Asked before his speech about his political affiliation, Orman said he has been a registered independent “most of my life” but also has been affiliated with the two major parties.

“I’ve generally been disappointed with the results,” he said.

Before his speech, he also addressed criticism from his opponents, saying “Sen. Roberts referred to me as a liberal masquerading as an independent. The Democrats started calling me a tea party conservative. So I guess they can’t even agree on that.”

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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