Voter choice

6/17/2014

Americans need new options amid dysfunction in Congress.

Americans need new options amid dysfunction in Congress.

Plenty of people are fed up with our dysfunctional Congress.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are to blame, leaving many Americans longing for viable alternatives.

Still, not many candidates step outside the major parties to run as an independent, or under a third-party banner.

Count one Kansan as an exception.

Olathe businessman Greg Orman is an independent seeking the U.S. Senate seat of Pat Roberts, a Republican who's logged 34 years in Congress — with a particularly troubling record of late.

Roberts has disappointed many Kansans by pandering to Tea Party extremists. Among the examples of his painful tilt to the right:

* He voted against a United Nations treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities — a treaty supported by fellow Kansan Bob Dole, a disabled World War II veteran who showed up for the Senate vote only to see the fringe element of his party defeat the move.

* He rejected a needed benefits plan for military veterans.

* He voted against a Farm Bill supported by Kansas ag producers.

* He bought into a Tea Party-driven government shutdown that cost the nation many billions of dollars, and accomplished nothing.

Roberts could have stood up to extremists in his party. Sadly, he did otherwise.

But are such failings enough to help an independent defeat the veteran lawmaker, should Roberts advance to the general election? A Democrat also would be in the mix in November.

It's a tall order, as candidates outside GOP and Democratic ranks often are dismissed by the media and others.

Independent candidates do have success in mobilizing new voters, and grabbing votes from major party contenders.

Occasionally, they even win elections.

Orman's business acumen and proven problem-solving skills make him a prepared and intriguing prospect, one in position to galvanize support from unaffiliated and disgruntled Kansans.

The challenge will be in engaging those prospective voters.

Too few voters bother to study candidates' life experiences and positions on issues before heading to the polls. Kansans unhappy with the status quo in Congress should investigate legitimate alternatives.

And, at the least, acknowledge the potential for change with such options.

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