Independent Olathe businessman Greg Orman, a reputed multimillionaire, is exploring the possibility of running for Kansas governor. Orman made a strong enough showing in his run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 against Pat Roberts to force the Democratic candidate out. Although some polls had him winning that race up until the end, Roberts beat Orman in the one-on-one showdown pretty convincingly, 53-42. Still, it had to have been a heady experience, heady enough perhaps to inspire another run for statewide office.
Orman’s 2014 campaign manager Jim Jonas told the Wichita Eagle that Orman has done some preliminary polling for the 2018 race and has interviewed potential campaign staff. “But to my knowledge,” said Jonas, “Greg has not made a final decision on whether or not to run.”
The Republicans would welcome his candidacy. The Democrats would not. Unlike the 2014 Senate race, the Dems actually think they can win this one. There is enough interest in the ranks to create the likelihood of a primary, the first in twenty years for governor. Candidates include former state Secretary of Agriculture Joshua Svaty, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer, and Olathe physician Arden Andersen, not to mention boy wonder Jack Berger, one of several high school students in the race.
The political scientists that the Eagle interviewed actually get this one right. KU’s Patrick Miller told the Eagle that Republican strategists “should be popping champagne bottles with the news of Orman running.” According to Miller, Orman received support from many of the same voters who backed Democrat Paul Davis for governor in the 2014 election. “It’s very much just the Davis vote,” said Miller. “It seems to map up with it from the exit polls. It seems to map up with it geographically.”
Although statewide media beat up Gov. Sam Brownback savagely for seven years, they would have to start the beating all over with the Republican nominee in a state that gave Trump a 20-point margin of victory in 2016. The media have already taken their best shots at Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and he remains the Republican front runner. Not all Republicans like Kobach’s style, but those who do like it a lot. To them, what the media establishment says about Kobach is irrelevant. In a three-way race, he would be close to unbeatable were he the Republican nominee.
The state’s major newspapers are now openly partisan, even more so than in 2014. Their political reporters know what the political scientists know. If Orman declares, he can expect a lot less love from the media than he experienced in 2014. They will want him out and out quick.