Kansas independent gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman said Wednesday that if elected in November, his administration would hire as many women as men in leadership jobs, fight the government's revolving door with a three-year ban on transition of legislators and executive branch staff to careers as lobbyists, and seek a constitutional amendment creating a nonpartisan commission to draw political boundaries.
Orman, a Johnson County businessman challenging dominance of the Republican and Democratic party structures in the 2018 election, said eight manifesto documents would be released by his campaign in the next 10 weeks to share with voters details on his vision for overhauling state government. Others will feature subjects that include economic development, health care and education policy.
The initial installment of this series, obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal, includes a proposal to require major political parties refusing to allow unaffiliated Kansans to participate in their partisan primaries to reimburse state and county government for the cost of operating the closed balloting.
Orman said taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for an election that automatically shuts out one-third of Kansas' potential voters. In the Aug. 7 primary, only registered Republicans or Democrats can vote in those respective elections. Registered independents are allowed to affiliate with a party on Election Day and qualify to vote.
"What we’ve had in Topeka is a government dedicated to serving itself and shutting out Kansas citizens from the problem-solving process," said Orman, who blamed Gov. Jeff Colyer and Gov. Sam Brownback for embracing that broken system. "We Kansans are at the cusp of reclaiming our state from further damage by political tribalism and nationally driven agendas."
Orman said he would appoint an equivalent number of men and women to senior positions. He said appointments in his administration would reflect the state's ethnic and geographic diversity. Hiring will be based on merit rather than partisan loyalty, he said.
"Instead of picking my Cabinet from a group of politically loyal Democrats or politically loyal Republicans, I will make all appointments based on merit and competence. Partisan affiliation will never be a consideration," Orman said.
He also pledged to reverse a state employee culture, which he attributed to Brownback and Colyer, that discouraged workers from thinking independently. That will change with empowerment of supervisors and managers who embrace different points of view and through establishment of communication channels that promote sharing of ideas for innovation and improvement, he said.
Orman said the proposed three-year prohibition on state public officials working as lobbyists in state government emphasized a belief that "public service shouldn’t be a stepping stone to a high-paying career lobbying your former colleagues."
The amendment to the Kansas Constitution allowing formation of the nonpartisan redistricting commission would serve to combat gerrymandering of Kansas House and U.S. House district boundaries, he said.
"It used to be believed that voters picked their leaders. Because of gerrymandering, politicians are able to pick their voters," Orman said.
He would also appoint a chief performance auditor to publicly report on agency progress on specific goals. He vowed to hire citizen advocates at controversy-plagued state agencies and have those employees report directly to him. It would include the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
He would require competitive bidding on state agency contracts, except in emergencies. That would contrast with the administrations of Colyer and Brownback, both Republicans, who have turned to no-bid contracts more than 1,000 times since 2011.
Orman committed to breaking down the bunker mentality that often pervades offices of the governor at the Capitol. He would conduct weekly breakfasts with legislators, schedule regular open-door meetings with constituents and host monthly town halls to interact with Kansans statewide.
In terms of transparency, Orman said the Legislature ought to record all votes. House and Senate committee meetings and executive branch agency proceedings ought to be streamed online, he said, and the Legislature's affinity for introduction of anonymous bills ought to be deflated.
"Kansans deserve to know who’s introducing legislation so that they can examine the motives behind a bill. I won’t sign any bills placed on my desk that don’t have an author attached," he said.