Senate challenger says he has enough signatures to get on ballot as independent candidate

Greg Orman plans to file by petition to run as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate.

? Johnson County businessman Greg Orman announced Monday that he has gathered enough petition signatures to file as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate.

Kansas law requires people to gather signatures from at least 10,000 registered voters to run as an independent in a statewide election, and Orman said his campaign crossed that threshold Monday.

“We heard from over 10,000 voters that they wanted an option in November,” Orman said during a news conference on the steps of the Kansas Statehouse, where he was joined by his wife, Sybil, and more than a dozen supporters. “We heard from voters that they wanted to see something different, that they wanted problem solving and not partisanship.”

If the petitions are verified, Orman will face the winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries, which are being held next Tuesday, Aug. 5. On the GOP side, three-term incumbent Pat Roberts is facing a Tea Party challenge from Johnson County radiologist Milton Wolf. And on the Democratic side, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor is running against Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner.

But Orman said he thinks the election will boil down to a “two-horse race” between himself and the winner of the Republican primary.

Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932. It has never elected an independent candidate to the Senate.

If elected, Orman said he will caucus with whichever party holds a majority in the Senate, and if neither party wins a majority this year, he would caucus with “whichever party is willing to honestly address the problems that the United States has.”

Democrats currently hold an effective 10-seat majority, with 53 elected Democrats and two independents who caucus with them, and 45 Republicans. But some analysts say the GOP stands a reasonable chance of taking control in November.

Responding to questions, Orman gave few specifics about the policies he would pursue if he’s elected.

Asked about the health reform law known as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Orman said: “We had a health care affordability crisis before the Affordable Care Act, and we have a health care affordability crisis today.”

And when asked if he favored repealing the law entirely, as many Republicans do, he said: “I think we need to solve the underlying problems of health care affordability.”

On the subject of immigration reform, Orman said: “Immigration is another example of what’s wrong with Washington.”

“I think for immigration reform to work, it needs to be tough, fair and practical,” he said. “And what that means is I think we need to first secure the border. And while we’re making progress with that, we’re not quite there. But then it’s also got to be fair to taxpayers, and what I mean by that is, if you’re in this country and you’re undocumented, I think you should have to register with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service).”

“I think you should have to pay a fine or perform community service in acknowledgement that you’ve broken one of our laws. I think you need to hold down a job, pay taxes, obey our laws, learn English, and ultimately, if you want to get in line, there’s a system to allow you to get in line to become a citizen,” he said.

Orman, who lives in Olathe, is an investor with the private equity firm Denali Partners LLC, which he co-founded in 2004. He graduated from Princeton University in 1991 with a degree in economics.

In 1992, he and his wife founded Environmental Light Concepts, or ELC, which designs and installs energy efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial companies. In 1996, he sold 70 percent of the company to Kansas City Power and Light.