Former GOP lawmakers support Orman for Senate

Former Sen. Tim Owens, of Overland Park, left, and former Rep. Rochelle Chronister, of Neodesha, are part of the group Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, which announced its endorsement Wednesday of independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman.

? Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman picked up the endorsement Wednesday of a group of about 70 former Republican state legislators.

Hours later, Democrat Chad Taylor officially withdrew from the race, leaving a three-person contest between incumbent Republican Pat Roberts and Libertarian candidate Randall Batson.

The group, Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, was founded about two years ago by former Rep. Jim Yonally and former Senate President Dick Bond, both of Overland Park.

At a Statehouse news conference, members of the group said they believe Orman can bridge the divide in Washington between “extremists on both ends.”

“The extremists are running this state. The extremists are running the national (government) and I have been a centrist my entire life,” said former Sen. Tim Owens, of Overland Park, a member of the group.

In 2008, Orman ran briefly as a Democrat for the same Senate seat, currently held by incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. But he abruptly dropped out of the race only two months after announcing his candidacy, citing unspecified differences he had with supporters.

A former partner in a venture capital firm, Orman has been a prolific contributor to other federal races over the years. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, he has made substantial donations to both candidates from both major parties, ranging from presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, to former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri on the Republican side.

His $2,000 donation to Akin, a staunch opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, was made in 2006, six years before Akin’s now-infamous statement that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Orman’s campaign did not respond to questions about that donation. But spokespeople for the Republican group said they believe he is “fiscally conservative and socially tolerant.”

“I believe that Greg Orman is that kind of a person,” said Rochelle Chronister, a former state representative from Neodesha and a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. “He is a pragmatist; he is a problem solver; and his decision to run was mainly based on the fact that he believes there should be a centrist kind of agreement.”

Two recent polls — by Public Policy Polling and SurveyUSA — have shown Orman running in third place behind Roberts and Taylor.

Tuesday’s announcement, however, was another indicator of a deep fracture within the Kansas Republican Party that has put two of its top officeholders, Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback, in re-election trouble.

In July, a similar group with many of the same members, Republicans for Kansas Values, organized to endorse Democrat Paul Davis for governor in the race against Brownback.

Nationally, Republicans hope to regain control of the U.S. Senate this year, but they need a net gain of six seats to accomplish that, and losing the Kansas seat could make that more difficult.

Orman, however, has not said which party he will caucus with if he is elected to the Senate. Orman has said he will caucus with whichever party has a majority. But he is also counting the possibility that he could become a tie breaker in the Senate.

“If I get elected, there is a fair chance that neither party in Washington will have a majority,” Orman said. “And if neither party has a majority in Washington, I think that’s a great opportunity for the state of Kansas to define the agenda in the Senate.”