Pratt Tribune reporter Brandon Case talked with Kansas independent gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman one-on-one via Skype.
In many ways, Greg Orman, Independent candidate for Governor, represents the future of Kansas. His message is post-Democratic and post-Republican. Sitting down with him and talking about the issues is somewhat like stepping onto a high-speed light rail train, which takes you quickly to many destinations and during which travel you become a more informed citizen.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of the Independent candidate and successful businessman from Johnson County is that no party or wealthy donor owns him.
“The governor appoints over a thousand people. First and foremost, my goal will be to attract the best and the brightest people to serve the state of Kansas. I think as an independent you can do things that party candidates can’t do. You can appoint people based on competence. You don’t have to appoint from a group of politically loyal Democrats or politically loyal Republicans. You can work with both sides, embracing the best idea, regardless of who thought of it,” Orman said.
Up until a week or so ago, I was like many other Kansans regarding who to vote for in the governor’s race: undecided. After reviewing Greg Orman’s website, reading his entry/bio on Wikipedia, and spending 40 minutes with him in a Skype video conversation on Monday, I became convinced that he is the candidate with the knowledge, skills, and vision to lead Kansas into a much brighter future.
“The visions of the candidates are very different. Secretary Kobach has talked about cutting spending, slashing government services, ultimately starving the government. Senator Kelly has talked about all sorts of programs that she wants to spend money on, but openly said in the debate in Johnson County that there’s nothing that can be made more efficient in state government. She’s invariably going to have to raise taxes if she wants to keep her campaign promises. I’m not interested in big government and high taxes. I’m not interested in starving the government. I want better government. For me, that really means, number one, focusing on growing the economy in a real way so we can expand the tax base and provide the revenues we need to fund our priorities without raising taxes. Number two, it means really looking hard at how we’re spending money in the state of Kansas and making sure that we’re spending it efficiently,” he said.
Orman is the only candidate for governor whose running mate hails from west of Wichita.
“John Doll, my running mate, is from western Kansas, and basically spent his whole life in rural Kansas. I put him on the ticket in large part because I wanted to have a strong and powerful voice for western and rural Kansas,” he said. “We need to recognize how dependent we are as a state on agriculture, [which is] 47 percent of our state’s economy.”
He said that Kansas needs to keep external markets open for its agricultural products.
“There’s no reason that every grocery store in Cuba shouldn’t be filled with bread made from Kansas wheat,” he said.
Orman has proposed building a rural fiber network to make sure that no Kansas resident lives more than 40 miles away from a fiber hub.
Orman has been both a Republican and a Democrat in the past, although since 2010 he has not been registered with either party.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the two-party system is irreparably broken,” he said. “Sure, we see it working in selected instances, selected situations, but generally we have to get to a point of crisis before they’re able to get together and work. The case in Kansas is a great example. We were in a literal crisis. The [state] supreme court was saying we are going to shut down your schools if you don’t make better decisions, so finally we saw all sides come together and act. I believe creating a third force in our politics will be very good when it comes to forcing better behavior from Democrats and Republicans.”
Orman said that his administration will be focused upon positive outcomes.
“I know Kansans want a better result. I know they want a government that works for them and helps them improve their lives,” he said. “Over the last two decades, with both Democrats in charge and Republicans in charge, we’ve failed to do that. I would say to people, ‘Look. It’s time to try something new.’ We are not going to get different results. We are not going to get better government if we keep electing the same old people.”
Orman said a hallmark of his administration will be transparency of results.
“We spend $17 billion in Kansas, and yet the only way we know we’re getting good results is if some journalist writes a story about it,” he said. “We should have an annual report card that says here are the objectives in each of these areas, and here’s what we accomplished, so that the people of Kansas know exactly what they’re getting for the dollars they’re spending.”
Orman has a vision for Kansas, which is set firmly in the 21st Century.
“We’re at the geographic center of the United States at a time when our economy is quickly moving from a bricks and mortar to a distributive economy,” he said. “We should be the distribution capital of America. We have abundant renewable energy at a time when many consumer companies want to be zero waste. We should be the inter-modal manufacturing capital of America, but it’s not going to happen if we don’t have underlying policies that support the development of those industries. We should take advantage of our abundant wind energy. Right now, we’ve got a lot of supply. We don’t have enough demand for it. And so what ends up happening is that a lot of that energy goes unused, but the whole system is burdened with the cost of it. So there’s a reason we’ve seen significant increases in utility rates over the last ten years. I believe we need to create more demand for our renewable energy. I think we do that by building transmission lines into Colorado, so that we can ship our energy west. I think that we have to look into building large, electric semi-recharging facilities that can be powered with renewable energy. Freightliner, Mac, and Tesla are all talking about having commercially available electric semis next year. They have to recharge themselves somewhere. We should look at creating demand for our renewable energy by creating those charging locations.”
Orman said he will also support technical education in the state.
“We need to address workforce issues. In Kansas, if you want to get an English Lit degree or you want to get a two-year degree there’s resources available to you. If you want to get a certificate in welding, you’re sort of on your own. We’ve talked about putting in a revolving loan fund to allow that kid who wants to get a welding certificate to be able to get a welding certificate,” he said.
Greg Orman is a gun owner who supports the second amendment, while also recognizing that with great freedom comes great responsibility.
“I believe that we can have reasonable firearms safety measures,” he said. “We’re looking at people who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, have been sentenced to more than a year in prison, have been judged to be mentally ill, or alternately, have a domestic abuse restraining order against them. I don’t want those people owning guns. The second thing I think we can do is go back to our old concealed carry law. It requires eight hours of safety training before you can carry a concealed weapon. In the state of Kansas right now we require a thousand hours of training for someone to legally wax an eyebrow and yet anybody can carry a concealed weapon without a minute’s worth of training because of the constitution.”
Orman said voters need to consider what the qualifications are for the position of governor of Kansas.
“I think it’s important for Kansans to understand that we’re not just electing someone who has an influence on policy, but we’re electing the CEO of a $17 billion organization, with roughly 40,000 employees,” he said. “I’m the only candidate in this race who has a track record of successfully growing, managing, and making more efficient large organizations of the size and the scale of many of our state agencies. My two opponents don’t have that experience. Senator Kelly has never managed anything before in her life. And Secretary Kobach managed two small organizations poorly. If we want to get better results for the people of Kansas, we’ve got to put somebody in that position who actually has the experience.”
Orman will be on the ballot for Governor of Kansas on November 6, 2018, along with Republican Kris Kobach, Democrat Laura Kelly, Libertarian Jeff Caldwell, Independent Rick Kloos and several other non-party participants.