Independent candidate for governor Greg Orman picked a running mate Wednesday with middle-of-the-road credentials who balances the ticket geographically.
Orman’s choice is state Sen. John Doll. He’s a former mayor of Garden City who lost a bid for Congress in 2006 running as a Democrat. He later changed parties and won a seat in the Kansas House as a Republican.
Doll advanced to the Senate in 2016 by narrowly defeating conservative incumbent Larry Powell in the GOP primary before swamping Democrat A. Zacheria Worf in the general election.
In that campaign, he was pressed about his political pedigree.
“I was just a Democrat,” he responded, “because Dad was a Democrat.”
Doll, 60, is a former teacher and basketball coach who grew up in a cattle ranching family. He’s now abandoning the Republican Party to join Orman’s campaign because, he said in a campaign news release, he believes the Johnson County businessman’s freedom from party politics would make him a better governor.
“The only master he will serve is the people of the state of Kansas,” Doll said in the release.
In an interview with the Kansas News Service, Doll said he has been talking to Orman off and on for a year. Their discussions, he said, invariably focused on how to improve the Kansas economy by finding new ways to take advantage of the state’s central location and by restoring “critical investments” in schools and infrastructure.
Orman said in the release he chose Doll because of his “deep roots” in western Kansas and his commitment to the “communities he’s served over the last 30 years.”
Orman and Doll need signatures from 5,000 registered voters by Aug. 6 to get their ticket on the November ballot. The campaign will start collecting those signatures in the next few weeks.
Several Kansas political scientists have said that Orman’s chances of winning are slim. They think his candidacy in Republican-heavy Kansas is likely to bolster the chances of the GOP nominee.
Doll rejects that analysis.
“I’m a former coach,” he said, “I don’t do anything to lose.”
Early polls suggest that two conservatives, Gov. Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, lead a crowded Republican field. Other Republicans in the race include Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, former state Sen. Jim Barnett and former state Rep. Mark Hutton.
Several candidates are also vying for the Democratic nomination. They include Sen. Laura Kelly, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, former legislator and state agriculture secretary Josh Svaty and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.
Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.