A new poll of Kansas voters revealed independent candidate Greg Orman could outperform Democratic gubernatorial nominee Laura Kelly in a hypothetical head-to-head showdown against Republican frontrunner Kris Kobach.
Kelly discounted results of any survey suggesting she would be the spoiler, while Kobach said there was no merit to the polling experiment because Orman and Kelly were political peas in a pod.
"We have said all along that Greg Orman is the only candidate who can gather enough support from Republicans, independents and Democrats to beat Kris Kobach in the November election," said Orman campaign spokesman Sam Edelen.
The poll sponsored by Grow Kansas Action Fund, which is led by the manager of Orman's 2014 race for the U.S. Senate, indicated Orman would take 52.5 percent of the vote to Kobach's 39.6 percent in a head-to-head match. A Kelly-Kobach showdown would be much closer, with Kelly securing 46 percent to Kobach's 45.6 percent. The undecided in both contests stood at 8 percent.
Orman has submitted more than 10,000 signatures in an attempt to earn a place on the general election ballot, but those have yet to be certified. The GOP nomination hangs in the balance, with Kobach currently holding a slim lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer with thousands of ballots still to be counted.
A central question in the 2018 race has been whether Orman or Kelly had the capacity to win in November or to draw just enough to enable Kobach or Colyer to prevail.
Kelly, a Topeka state senator, said she was confident the fall election would demonstrate the vulnerability of Orman, a Johnson County businessman who hasn't held elective office.
"I don't expect that in the long run Greg Orman is going to be a factor," she said. "Kansans understand that they need to elect someone who has a record of working on behalf of the state. Not someone who has absolutely no experience or track record of public service."
Kelly has won four Kansas Senate campaigns and carried 52 percent of the Democratic vote in Tuesday's primary. Orman lost the 2014 campaign to Roberts by 10.6 percentage points after the withdrawal of Democratic nominee Chad Taylor, who was the district attorney in Shawnee County.
Kobach, elected secretary of state in 2010, said the policy positions of Orman and Kelly would inspire the state's conservative base in November. Kobach said Kelly and Orman were on the same page in support of abortion and expansion of Medicaid.
"On so many issues, they share the same position," Kobach said. "In many cases, you'll have two people on the left on an issue versus one person on the right on an issue. I think that will mobilize our base."
Kobach hasn't been declared the official winner of the primary election, because 110 votes separate him from Colyer with provisional and mail-in ballots yet to be counted. There is a chance the outcome of that primary could be decided by a recount.
This poll didn't take into account inclusion on the general election ballot of Libertarian nominee Jeff Caldwell, of Leawood, and independent Richard Kloos, of Berryton.
Grow Kansas Action Fund is a 502(c)4 education committee based in an Overland Park office. Jim Jonas, executive director of the committee, said it wasn't affiliated with any candidate or political committee. Jonas was campaign manager of Orman's campaign for the Senate four years ago.//