Gregory John Orman
December 2, 1968
Mankato, Minnesota, U.S.
|Political party||Independent (2009–present)|
|Republican (before 2007)|
Sybil Orman (m. 2013)
|Education||Princeton University (BA)|
Gregory John Orman (born December 2, 1968) is an American politician, entrepreneur and political candidate. He ran as an independent to represent Kansas in the United States Senate in the 2014 election, earning 42.5 percent of the vote and losing to incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Roberts. On January 24, 2018, Orman announced he would run for governor of the state of Kansas in 2018. After the major party primaries in August 2018, polling indicated that in a three-way race Orman was at 19 percent, Democrat Laura Kelly at 32 percent and Republican Kris Kobach at 38 percent. Orman suspended his television ads and stopped actively fundraising in mid-September. In the November 6 general election, he received approximately 6.5% of the vote, more than the victory margin of Democrat Laura Kelly over Republican Kris Kobach.
Orman was born in Minneapolis, MN and, after age 7, raised in Mankato, Minnesota, the second-oldest of six children. His mother, Darlene Gates, was a registered nurse. When he was five his parents divorced. His mother got full custody of the children and later sued her ex-husband for increases in child support payments. His father, Tim, moved to Stanley, Kansas where he co-owned a furniture store. He lived with his mother during the school year; during the summers he worked in his father's warehouse. His mother was a Democrat and his father a Republican. As a young adult, Orman admired Ronald Reagan.
Orman graduated from Mankato East Senior High School in 1987 as co-valedictorian of his class. In 1986, he was the national President of the Boys Nation and met President Reagan at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
Orman graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University in 1991 with a degree in economics and finance. He was a member of the Princeton College Republicans and worked for George H. W. Bush's presidential campaign in 1988. However, in 1992 he supported independent candidate Ross Perot.
After graduating, Orman worked for consultancy firm McKinsey & Company before he founded Environmental Lighting Concepts in 1992, which designs and installs energy-efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial companies. He built the company into a multimillion-dollar business with over 120 employees in four years, before selling a majority of the company to Kansas City Power and Light in 1996. About Orman, a colleague at the time said “this guy had a plan and a vision” and “seemed to work around the clock.”
In 1996, Orman was put in charge of KLT Energy Services, a subsidiary of Kansas City Power & Light. Orman remained at Kansas City Power & Light for six more years and grew KLT Energy Services from less than $100 million in revenues to almost $1 billion before leaving the company in 2002.
In 2002, KCP&L merged the remnant of Environmental Lighting Concepts into one of its other subsidiaries. Filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission show Orman received $10.1 million in company stock and got paid more than $4.7 million – a sizable return for a sliver of a company that Orman started with nothing a decade earlier.
Drue Jennings, the CEO of Kansas City Power & Light at the time of their purchase of Environmental Lighting Concepts, referred to Orman as “very disciplined, and very studious, and never just took a flier at something. He had it thought through.”
In 2004, Orman co-founded private equity firm Denali Partners LLC  and is the Managing Member of Exemplar Holdings, LLC. Exemplar Holdings lists six portfolio companies on its website, including Combat Brands, a Lenexa, Kansas-based boxing equipment manufacturer. Other companies include Ripple Glass, a Kansas City-based recycler of glass containers that operates in six states; Exemplar Medical, which focuses on investing in companies that reduce the cost of healthcare; Exemplar Finance, which provides financing for capital equipment projects utilizing energy efficient technology; Dragon Jacket, a manufacturer of a patented, reusable pipe insulation product; and an affordable housing subsidiary that invests in local, affordable housing communities.
On December 28, 2015 Combat Brands LLC, the Orman led company, announced it acquired Kansas City-based Fitness First, Inc. Fitness First, a fitness equipment provider, was consolidated into Combat Brands' location, but operates under the name Fitness First. Acquiring Fitness First expands Combat's product offerings and helps grow the company, Orman said in an interview with Kansas City Business Journal, "Fitness First has done a tremendous job of building relationships with institutional customers. It gives us an opportunity to grow our business even further and expand into 2016." Orman extended employment offers to all Fitness First employees.
In June,1997 FRM Associates, of which Greg Orman was a partner, purchased a building housing The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The building today is known as "Marquette Plaza". According to Business Wire, "The building went under a multi-year renovation and addition which was completed in 2002. In 2011, the building re-established its `iconic status' and became the first downtown Minneapolis building to earn LEED Platinum certification. This status, granted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the most prestigious and challenging level of LEED certification to achieve and illustrates the building's transformation and leadership in the greening of downtown." 
Orman has professional and personal ties to former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta, and served as his designated representative on the board of New Silk Route, a private equity fund, from April 2013 until March 2014. When Gupta was convicted of insider trading in 2012, Orman said that "He is a friend of mine, he made a huge mistake, and he's paying the price for it. It shocked me like it shocked a lot of people when it came out that he was charged with those things."
At various times Orman has been registered as a Republican and a Democrat. He has been unaffiliated with a party since 2010. After a debate in 2014 he stated, "I've tried both parties; and, like most Kansans, I've been disappointed."
Orman has made donations to both Democrats and Republican candidates. In 2006, while he was considering running as a Democrat for the Senate, he gave $1,000 to Harry Reid, and $4,600 to the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Public records also show donations to Kansas Representatives Dennis Moore, Nancy Boyda and Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
Orman donated to Republicans Todd Akin in 2006 and gave $2,000 to Scott Brown in 2010, in an effort to block the passage of Obamacare. According to the Associated Press, Orman said regarding repealing the ACA, "...there is no point in trying to repeal it, as Roberts has proposed. I thought at the time we were expanding a broken system." He called, "Republican attempts to repeal the law impractical, considering that Obama remains in office and would veto any repeal...It sounds like a hollow political promise they can't keep."  Orman said that "I've made contributions to lots of political candidates over time, and I've generally been disappointed with the results."
Orman's contributions to political campaigns, according to the Associated Press, have been less than $180,000 since 1997. Of that $180,000, $86,079 was contributed to his own campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2008 so that he could refund 100% of the contributions he received when he decided to drop out.
Orman has donated substantially more to political reform organizations. In 2012 he donated $5,000 to the independent political organization Americans Elect. He has also contributed $288,236 to the Common Sense Coalition.
Orman was briefly a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Kansas, but dropped out before the primary, saying "Whenever you run as a candidate in either party, there are certain constituencies that want you to behave and act and believe certain things. As I evaluated the race and looked at the positions I was going to have to take to get the support that was necessary to win, I just didn't feel comfortable taking those positions."
2014 U.S. Senate election
He faced incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts in the November general election. Orman was the main rival to Roberts after Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the race on September 3 over concerns that he and Orman would split votes from Independent and Democratic voters not breaking for Roberts.
The group Traditional Republicans for Common Sense endorsed Orman on September 3, 2014. This group is composed of approximately 70 former Republican elected officials. Jim Yonally, chairman of the group, stated "We believe Greg Orman is the best qualified candidate for the office of United States senator from Kansas", although some other members of the group expressed their support for Roberts following the announcement. During the campaign, Orman did not appear to receive significant support or help from any politicians or organizations, including Democrats. After the election, final fundraising reports showed that groups supporting Orman had received $1.5 million from Senate Majority PAC, run by former advisors to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, $1 million from Independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and donations from GOP donors Peter Ackerman, Greg Penner, Jeffrey Binder and John Burbank.
Because the makeup of the U.S. Senate might have been affected if Orman was elected, NBC News said that Orman could be "the most interesting man in politics" in November. If Orman had been victorious, the U.S. Senate would have had three independent senators for the first time in the chamber's history.
Potential caucus affiliation
Due to the close nature of the 2014 Senate elections, Orman could have played the role of kingmaker in choosing the Senate Majority Leader. He proposed to caucus with whichever party held the majority in the Senate, saying that "it's in the best interests of the voters of Kansas that they have a senator in the majority".
In the event that Orman held the tiebreaking vote in the Senate, he stated that he would ask both parties to commit to issues including immigration and tax reform and caucus with whichever agreed. He said in October 2014 that if, after caucusing with one party for four or five months he found that "they're engaged in the same old partisan politics", he would "absolutely" consider caucusing with the other party to give them the majority instead. He explained: "Ultimately, this is about solving problems. This is about the voters of Kansas saying—the status quo doesn't work anymore."
Although Orman led incumbent Roberts in the polls in early November, Roberts defeated Orman 53% to 43%, with the balance going to another non-major party candidate. Robert's win was coined a "rescue mission" by the Washington Post. According to another Washington Post report, "Roberts spent the better part of September trailing his challenger by as much as 10 points...So, the national party sent in reinforcements and replaced the people at the head of Roberts's campaign. Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul -- a galaxy of the GOP's top stars -- trotted through what is often described as a flyover state. Bob Dole, on his tour of all 105 counties in Kansas, talked about his friend, Pat. Outside groups poured in nearly $10 million to support Roberts and to oppose Orman. Other outside groups also spent nearly $6 million in negative ads against Roberts."
On April 29, 2015, Lincoln Park Strategies released its PAAR (Percent Above Anticipated Results) report on predicted results versus actual results for the 2014 Senate elections. The report included Greg Orman's independent campaign for the U.S. Senate. The report concluded that "Greg Orman in Kansas had the highest positive PAAR score at 10.8. Although Pat Roberts is back in Washington DC for another six years, Orman was able to drop Roberts an astronomical 12 points below what a Republican candidate was expected to receive in 2014. Governor Sam Brownback and some self-imposed mistakes clearly helped Orman, yet the campaign deserves full accolades for having the second highest PAAR score from both parties."
According to Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon, Orman and the Democratic Party have similar views in support of certain gun restrictions, reproductive rights, and other matters. Orman has described himself as "a problem solver, not a partisan" and describes his ideology as "fiscally responsible and socially tolerant". He supports "broad tax reform", is concerned about the impact entitlement spending is having on the federal deficit, and agrees with some of the ideas of former Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
Orman has stated that he supports campaign finance reform, by proposing expansion of campaign finance disclosure rules and contribution restrictions. He also supports a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United decision. Orman has also proposed several reforms to campaign financing, including a ban on political action committees formed by congressional leaders and a ban on PAC donations from lobbyists to candidates.
Orman has declined to indicate whether he would have voted for the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. He did say, however, that "we need to relax the Dodd–Frank regulations that relate to community banks and region banks."
Orman was never asked his position on whether he would support an increase in the gas tax. He did indicate that he would promote oil and gas development: "I believe that we need to support continued oil and gas development." He also indicated he would support, "promoting fuels like CNG and LNG and electric vehicles..." 
According to Orman, he would have opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but is against repeal of it now. He told the Lawrence Journal-World in response to a question if the Affordable Care Act should be repealed in its entirety, amended to address specific problems or left as it is, he said, "I opposed ACA because it did nothing to fix a broken system. We had a national crisis in health care before the Affordable Care Act passed, and that crisis still exists today. But instead of playing political games with this issue as Republicans and Democrats in Congress have done, I believe we need to focus on what Washington can actually do to ensure that health care is affordable for all Americans."
He also has stated he supports maintaining or increasing border patrols to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the US. In addition, he supports a path to citizenship for some of the illegal immigrants already in the country. Orman has declined to take a stance on whether the Keystone Pipeline should be constructed, saying that he doesn't have enough information to make a decision. Orman is politically "pro-choice".
2016 book release
On May 3, 2016, Greg Orman's book A Declaration of Independents, How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream, published through the Greenleaf Book Group, went on sale. In the book Orman described his view on how hyper-partisanship, division and a win-at-all-costs environment in Washington have created a toxic culture of self-interest that has left average Americans behind.
Morton Kondracke praised the book in his 2015 Wall Street Journal book review. He said, "[Orman] argues passionately and convincingly that a third force is necessary to challenge the Republican-Democrat "duopoly" that sustains a status quo of laws, regulations, subsidies and loopholes paid for by special-interest contributions to both parties."
Charles Wheelan, a senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College and contributing writer for U.S. News & World Report wrote in his review, "I hope this will be the first shot in a sustained assault on the broken two-party system. Orman is not a political scientist hunkered down in the Ivory Tower. Nor is he a vapid politician...He's a guy who ran a U.S. Senate campaign that nearly upended the political system."
2018 gubernatorial election
Orman filed to run as an Independent in the governor's race in 2018, with state senator John Doll. Doll was formerly a Republican House and then Senate member who changed his registration to Independent in 2018, to run as Orman's lieutenant gubernatorial running mate. Although many signatures were deemed ineligible, those gathered for his campaign were deemed sufficient by the state Objections Board, consisting of statewide Republican officials, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Governor Jeff Colyer, and Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. All three were represented at the board by their proxies. Colyer and Kobach were candidates for governor, with the latter winning the Republican primary by 343 votes. Colyer's campaign chairman, Steve Baccus, a long time President of Kansas Farm Bureau endorsed Orman after the Republican primary and became a campaign co-chairman for Orman.
Immediately after the major party primaries, polling in a three-way race indicated that Orman was at 19 percent, trailing Democrat Laura Kelly by 13 points and Republican Kris Kobach by 19 points. There was some media attention in the early stages of the general election because additional polling showed Orman outperforming Kelly in a hypothetical head-to-head showdown against Kobach. Polling done by Triton Research and reported on by the Topeka Capital Journal showed Orman would beat Kobach in a head to head race by 13 percentage points, while Democrat Kelly was in a dead heat. The race eventually became about which candidate, Orman or Kelly, was more likely to beat Kobach in a three-way race. According to senior staff on the Orman campaign, [despite] “great Orman debate performances, innovative policies, and a compelling message, we just couldn't sell Greg's electability argument. We couldn't get Kansans past the fear of accidentally electing Kobach.”. In polling released by the Docking Institute at Fort Hays State University in October 2018, Orman had a net positive favorability rating and significantly higher name ID than Laura Kelly (75% for Orman and 62% for Kelly) Significantly more voters, however, said they would vote for Kelly. Orman suspended active fundraising efforts and elected to stop running TV advertisements in the Kansas City market by Labor Day. He stopped running ads in the rest of the state in mid-September.
In a poll conducted on September 12–13, Orman, at 9% trailed Kobach and Democratic State Senator Laura Kelly, each by about 30 points. By September 18, 2018, dozens of prominent Republicans had endorsed Kelly, including former Governor Bill Graves, former U.S. Senators Sheila Frahm and Nancy Kassebaum, and former Kansas Senate President Dick Bond.
Despite significant calls for Orman to drop out of the Governor's race and support Laura Kelly, he elected to stay in. He described his reasons for doing so in an article published post-election. Among others, Orman wrote, “Because I believe the most important issue facing us as Americans is our destructive and self-perpetuating two-party system, I was not willing to join it in the service of personal advancement.”
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