Who: Republican Pat Roberts defeated Independent Greg Orman for the Senate seat
When: Nov. 4
Why this election was different: Kansas is a Republican state. Since it was admitted to the Union in 1861, the state has an almost perfect history of electing Republicans — there have been three Democratic senators out of 29 total. So when Kansas voters turn out to the polls, there’s an expectation that they will check the box beside the Republican candidate then head back home.
But this year was different. It started when Democratic candidate Chad Taylor withdrew from the race. Before Taylor withdrew, the Democratic campaign for the ballot was practically a formality. While Kansans weren’t necessarily pleased with everything Roberts had done, they were still guaranteed to vote Republican.
After Taylor dropped out, however, the game changed. As an independent, Orman absorbed most of the Democratic votes from Taylor. But with an independent platform, Orman was able to campaign towards both parties. He claimed to draw his policies from both Republican and Democratic positions on issues, and promised to caucus only with the party that would best suit Kansans.
Orman’s non-partisan approach to the elections attracted moderate Republicans, especially those who were more liberal socially. On the other hand, conservative Republicans argued that Orman — who previously funded Democratic campaigns and mostly discussed Democratic ideals — would run as an independent and caucus as a Democrat.
Regardless, as the election day grew closer, Kansas began to attract national attention because it looked like a non-Republican could be taking the Senate seat.
Why the results matter: On Election Day, the Republicans retained their Senate seat. Orman was beat by a 10 percent margin, which was still closer than ever expected in such a red state. Nationally, the Republicans took both the House and the Senate for the first time in eight years.
Although the expected inevitably happened, this Senate race made a point about Kansas politics. First, it showed that our “flyover” state can have a national sway in politics if the media gives us the proper attention.
In the last month, Kansas took center stage in media coverage of the Senate elections, since a non-Republican in Kansas could be a “swing” vote deciding whether the Democrats or Republicans would control the Senate. With Roberts’ win, the Republicans cemented their control over the House and Senate.
But with this year’s Senate race, Kansas voters brought up a new issue. The popularity of Orman did not come mainly from his stances on immigration or taxes. Orman attracted attention because he ran as an independent, separate from partisan issues, focusing on what he saw as important to Kansans instead of important to the Republicans.
Although Orman was accused of not actually being independent, and although he lost the race, his spike in popularity illustrated the Kansan — and American — frustration and exhaustion with partisan issues.
In the end, it doesn’t matter who Orman would have sided with. His popularity lies in the fact that American voters are done with partisan bickering. We don’t want to watch Republicans and Democrats call each other names and refuse to work together. Instead, we want a government that works together, regardless of party lines, to mold a better future for each and every one of us.