Independent bid catching interest of Kansans

An intriguing candidate for governor has caught the nation’s attention because he is running as an Independent.

Entrepreneur Greg Orman, 49, Fairway, was unsuccessful in a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014. Kansans, he said, are ready for a common sense independent approach.

“I’m concerned that if we don’t get things turned around my two young daughters and many Kansans’ sons and daughters are not going to feel inspired to stay here,” Orman said. “The future is something we should embrace. The future can be very bright. We need to put our state where our children and grandchildren want to stay but that is going to take innovative leadership.”

Orman has selected state Sen. John Doll, Garden City, to be his running mate. Doll has changed party affiliations from Republican to Independent. Orman said Doll would be a strong and forceful advocate for western Kansas and rural interests.

Kansans need a visionary to find new products for agriculture markets, Orman said during a recent interview at High Plains Journal office. Doll accompanied him.

“There is a lot of grain on the ground right now and we obviously need new markets,” Orman said. “We need to look at new opportunities. One of the things I believe in and we need to research is whether or not industrial hemp will work in this part of the state. It is a lower water intensive crop but has a higher profit margin per acre than some of the other crops that we traditionally grow. I’d like to give farmers the freedom to grow those crops.”

Doll said hemp once was commonly grown as a way to make rope and research has indicated it can be used in the construction industry. He added that Kansas is centrally located for mills and transportation to distribute to the United States.

Water plan

Orman credited former Gov. Sam Brownback for his commitment to developing a 50-year water plan. Funding is not in place to implement reform, Orman said, and with the financial constraints ahead for the next several years in funding a $16 billion state budget it will take time to fund a plan.

“In talking to people with water rights it is clear to me they are interested in being a part of the solution,” Orman said. “We have to work with them collaboratively to find a way to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.”

The challenge will be how to pay for it and will require resolve by a governor and lawmakers. Doll said it has to be a priority for the state. “It is vitally important. It is not an option.”


Orman said Kansas is blessed with three major railroads and has untapped potential for shipping manufacturing and agricultural products. Kansas, by its location, can become the intermodal shipping capital of America.

Highway maintenance and development are a must. Orman noted that when he drives in rural areas he sees a dire need for improvements.

“Obviously we have taken $2.5 billion out of the state highway fund out of the budget largely to fund the Brownback tax cut experiment. Now that we have rolled back the Brownback tax cut experiment I’m hopeful we will be in a position to invest in our infrastructure.”

Doll said highways, airports and improved roads are all necessary to building the state’s agricultural economy.

Orman believes regulations can be streamlined to help develop industry.

“One of the things we have talked about is building a proactive economic development strategy for the state,” he said. “In my line of work I’m a business guy. I’m trying to grow a company and I have to decide how to get into a new market or market a new product line. The first question I ask is what are the strengths we have to leverage.”

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Transparency is a cornerstone of his campaign. He cited Tyson’s decision last year against building a $320 million chicken processing plant that was estimated to employ about 1,600 Kansans.

“One of our priorities is to make government more effective and transparent,” Orman said. “I think the Tyson situation is ultimately a failure of transparency. If they had those discussions and the people in the community felt like they were heard we would have had a different result.”

Orman was also in favor of reducing the sales tax on groceries to help families. He said it is a policy that should be examined once the state’s fiscal house is put back in order.

The candidate is concerned that farmers and ranchers are paying higher property taxes.

Doll said the increase in property values hits rural constituents harder and changes to tax policies need to weigh the long-term consequences of how it impacts property taxes.

Orman’s wife, Sybil, is a public school teacher and the couple has two young daughters. Orman has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].