TOPEKA, Kansas — Independent candidate Greg Orman portrayed himself Monday as the leading challenger in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas, saying his early, vigorous campaign for Republican incumbent Pat Roberts' seat makes him more viable than the leading Democratic contender.
Orman announced that his supporters collected more than 10,000 signatures from registered voters on petitions to get him on the November ballot and plans to submit the petitions to the secretary of state's office for verification this week. State law requires an independent candidate to collect 5,000 signatures.
Orman, from Olathe, is the co-founder of a business capital and management services firm and is running as a centrist. He argued that he has a good chance of winning as an independent because voters are weary of partisan bickering in Washington.
His campaign also reported raising nearly $593,000 in cash contributions in less than six week between late May and the end of June, compared with the $127,000 reported by leading Democratic candidate Chad Taylor from his campaign's start in November through June. Orman also launched statewide television ads earlier this month.
"We think this is going to quickly become a two-horse race between myself and whoever emerges from the Republican primary," Orman said during a news conference on the south steps of the Statehouse.
Roberts is seeking his fourth, six-year term and faces an aggressive challenge in the Aug. 5 GOP primary from tea party candidate Milton Wolf, a Leawood radiologist. Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, is opposed by Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner in the Democratic contest but has the backing of party leaders.
Taylor campaign manager Brandon Naylor said Orman is following "the old playbook" by focusing on fundraising numbers and early television ads, while Taylor has made dozens of stops to meet voters. Naylor also questioned whether Orman has a solid political base.
"His platform has been, 'I'm not those guys,'" Naylor said. "That works for a couple of weeks when you get in."
Republicans have won every U.S. Senate race in Kansas since 1932 and expect another victory this year. Clay Barker, the state GOP's executive director, agreed Orman could emerge as the Republican nominee's most credible challenger because of his fundraising abilities.
But Barker added that with an independent candidate, "A lot of people would hesitate to vote that way because they don't know what he stands for."
Orman said if he's elected, it's possible neither side will have a clear majority, giving the Senate's few independents a leading role.
"I'm going to caucus with whichever party is willing to address our country's problems," he said. "Ultimately, if one party is clearly in the majority, I will likely caucus with that party because that will be in the best interests of the state of Kansas."
Greg Orman's campaign: http://www.ormanforsenate.com/
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .