Independent Greg Orman qualifies for November ballot for Kansas governor’s race

photo by: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

In this file photo from Nov. 1, 2014, Greg Orman talks to supporters during a senate campaign event in Topeka.

Story updated 5:51 p.m. Aug. 17, 2018:

TOPEKA – Kansas election officials announced Friday that independent candidate Greg Orman gathered more than enough valid petition signatures to qualify to be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot in the governor’s race.

He will appear on the ballot with his lieutenant governor running mate, Sen. John Doll, of Garden City, a former Republican who registered as an unaffiliated voter this year to run with Orman.

“The Secretary of State’s office has determined the independent nomination petition for Governor/Lt. Governor submitted by Greg Orman and John Doll is sufficient,” the secretary of state’s office announced in a statement on Twitter.

“Despite the best efforts of both parties to avoid electoral accountability by preventing anyone but their own from accessing the ballot, Sen. Doll and I will give Kansas voters a true Independent choice in this election for the first time in generations,” Orman said in a statement after his qualification for the ballot was announced.

Orman, 49, of Olathe, is a Johnson County businessman who ran as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. He received 43 percent of the vote against incumbent Republican Pat Roberts in a race that had no Democratic candidate.

He now becomes the third major candidate in a race against Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, 52, of Lecompton, who won a narrow race against incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer that wasn’t decided until seven days after the primary, and Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, 68, of Topeka.

Also on the ballot is Libertarian candidate Jeff Caldwell, 31, of Leawood.

State law requires independent candidates to submit at least 5,000 petition signatures from registered voters in the state to qualify for the ballot.

On Aug. 6, Orman submitted petitions with around 10,300 signatures. The secretary of state’s office did not say how many it had verified, but Kansas Democratic Party officials have said that they are likely to file a challenge, alleging that many of those signatures are not valid.

Such a challenge would be heard by the State Objections Board, which is made up of the secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor, or their designees.

Will Lawrence, who is chief of staff to Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said in a statement that the party’s “Petition Protection” team had discovered “a substantial pattern of irregularities and possible forgeries.”

Orman, however, said in an interview Thursday that he was not worried.

“We’ll have some challenges, but I have every confidence we’ll be on the fall ballot in November,” Orman said. “We turned in over 10,300 signatures, and what I’ve heard is we’re getting verification rates much higher than we even anticipated, and so I think we will clear the 5,000-signature hurdle with a few thousand signatures to spare.”

Many observers see Orman as a potential threat to Democrats.

Johanna Warshaw, spokeswoman for the Kelly campaign, issued a statement Friday saying Democrats are still confident they can win in November.

“She (Kelly) is a dedicated public servant committed to improving the lives of kids and families across the state. Kansans are ready for a leader who will put the best interests of our families first – not their own political ambitions like Greg Orman and Kris Kobach.”

Since 1964, gubernatorial races in Kansas have been evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. During that time, no Republican has ever been elected to succeed another Republican, and no Democrat has been elected to succeed another Democrat.

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