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Democrats challenge independent bid for Kansas governor

Author: Associated Press - August 21, 2018 - Updated: August 21, 2018

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In this Aug. 6 photo, Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman speaks to reporters after he and his running mate Sen. John Doll delivered more than 10,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Topeka, Kan., to formalize their campaign for governor. A Democratic legislative leader’s aide is challenging Orman’s right to appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Kansas governor. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Democrats launched a legal challenge Monday in hopes of removing Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman from the November ballot as an independent candidate for Kansas governor after Orman stoked fears that his bid would imperil Democrats’ chances of winning.

Attorney Will Lawrence filed a formal objection to Orman’s candidacy Monday with the Kansas secretary of state’s office. Lawrence is lawyer and chief of staff for Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, but has hired a prominent Topeka lawyer to pursue the challenge.

Many Democrats fear that Orman could siphon votes from their nominee, state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, helping the Republican, conservative Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The objection will be considered by a state board made up of Kobach’s top deputy, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, all Republicans.

Orman submitted petitions signed by more than 10,000 people to get his name on the Nov. 6 ballot, needing signatures from 5,000 registered Kansas voters. The secretary of state’s office said last week that Orman qualified; it validated more than 7,000 of Orman’s signatures.

But Lawrence’s objection argues that election officials in seven counties took one day more than allowed by state law to validate more than 6,000 of Orman’s signatures, finishing Friday. The objection also raised questions about whether petitions were properly notarized and whether some circulators were qualified under state law to gather signatures.

His attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, wrote in a separate letter that the issues “raise serious doubts” about whether Orman’s name can appear on the ballot.

Orman spokesman Sam Edelen called the objection “frivolous” and said it shows “the lengths to which the supporters of the failed system will go.”

“They want to avoid giving voters a real choice at all costs,” Edelen said in an email.

Democrats saw a bigger opening in the governor’s race after Kobach unseated Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary by fewer than 400 votes out of more than 317,000 cast. Kobach is President Donald Trump’s closest political ally in the state but has a history of alienating GOP moderates, partly by advocating tough policies against illegal immigration.

Orman is potentially the most serious independent candidate for governor since the 1930s. He founded a private equity firm and garnered national attention as an independent candidate against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014.

Orman did so well in initial polling in 2014 that the Democratic nominee dropped out to create a better chance of toppling the veteran Republican. But Orman lost by 10.5 percentage points after Roberts got help from GOP stalwarts, including former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

The GOP began a clean sweep of statewide and congressional races in 2010 but Kansas has a solid bloc of moderate GOP and independent voters and a history over the past 50 years of alternating between electing Republican and Democratic governors.

Associated Press

Associated Press