Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Chad Taylor, Shawnee County district attorney.
Olathe businessman Greg Orman said he has tried both of the major political parties and been disappointed.
“I didn’t feel like either party fit me well as someone who is fiscally responsible and socially tolerant,” Orman said Thursday in Wichita.
So he launched a petition drive this week to get on the ballot as an independent candidate and campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts.
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“Washington is broken,” he said, “and we’re sending the worst of both parties to Washington – people who are bitter partisans who seem to care more about pleasing the extremists in their own party and the special interests than they do in solving problems.”
He said Roberts is part of the problem.
“He’s taken a sharp turn to the right recently and ultimately I don’t think he’s representing the best interests of Kansas,” Orman said.
Orman, a 1991 graduate of Princeton University, briefly ran against Roberts in 2008 as a Democrat before dropping out of the race.
He co-founded the Common Sense Coalition in 2010 to give a voice to what he called “the sensible center,” those voters who don’t feel represented by either party.
Orman said elected leaders of both parties are focused more on getting re-elected than solving problems.
“I tried to work within the system but ultimately decided the only real way to make a difference is to challenge it,” he said.
Orman needs 5,000 signatures from qualified voters to get on the ballot, but he said he plans to get considerably more.
Roberts faces a Republican primary challenge from Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf and lesser-known candidates Alvin Zahnter of Russell and D.J. Smith of Osawatomie.
Democrats Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, and Patrick Wiesner, a Lawrence attorney also seek the seat, as does Libertarian Randall Batson of Wichita.
Orman said he started Environmental Lighting Concepts, which designed energy efficient lighting systems for companies, and later sold most of it to Kansas City Power & Light. He grew KCPL’s unregulated businesses from about $100 million to nearly $1 billion in revenue over five years, he said.
Orman said he left KCPL in 2002 and has been building businesses since then. He is co-founder of Denali Partners, a business capital and management services firm.