Kansas Republicans Block Democrat From Exiting Senate Bid

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach yesterday helped his fellow Republicans by preventing a Democrat from pulling his name off the U.S. Senate ballot.

It was the latest development in the re-election bid of incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who already has faced controversy over his questionable Kansas residency, and a serious Tea Party primary challenge. It’s playing out in a state that tilts so far their way that Republicans shouldn’t have to worry about it.

Former Democratic Senate candidate Chad Taylor learned that it’s not that easy to get your name off the ballot, at least in Kobach’s Kansas. The secretary’s ruling found that Taylor, a district attorney who had struggled to raise money for his race, didn’t comply with state law when he withdrew from the race on Sept. 3 without explanation.

His sudden departure had drawn suspicion from Republicans that he was trying to boost independent candidate and businessman Greg Orman’s chances of defeating Roberts by making it a one-on-one race.

“Mr. Taylor did not declare that he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of U.S. Senator, if elected,” the state’s top election official said in a statement. “Therefore, Mr. Taylor’s name will appear on the ballot for the office of United States senator for the Nov. 4 general election.”

The Roberts campaign was more explicit, calling Taylor’s withdrawal a “corrupt bargain” between Democratic leaders and Orman, according to the Associated Press.

Legal Challenge

Taylor, in a statement, said he planned to challenge the ruling and noted that Kobach “serves on Pat Roberts’ honorary committee,” a reference to the incumbent’s campaign.

He contacted the secretary of state’s office to inquire about the steps needed to terminate his candidacy and withdraw his name from the ballot and said he was “provided explicit instructions as to the information required in the letter to remove my name.”

When he submitted the letter, Taylor said he asked if it had all the information necessary to remove his name from the ballot and was told that it did. “My candidacy in this race was terminated,” he said.

The Kansas race has emerged as a wild card in the fight for control of the Senate, a battle where Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win the chamber.

Roberts in August narrowly won a primary against a Tea-Party backed challenger, Milton Wolf, who is President Barack Obama’s second cousin. Roberts, 78, is seeking a fourth term in a state Obama twice lost by double digits.

Primary Fight

In the primary, Roberts won with just 48 percent of the Republican vote, even after news reports in February that Wolf, a radiologist, had posted graphic X-rays of gunshot-wound victims to his Facebook page, in some cases making macabre comments about the images.

The New York Times reported in February that Roberts lists his address for voter registration purposes as a house in Dodge City belonging to two donors. Roberts, who owns a Washington-area home, told the newspaper that he stays there when he’s in the area, joking that he has “full access to the recliner.”

Democrats had hoped that their candidate’s exit from the race would clear a path for Orman.

“It’s a new worry for Republicans,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. “There is clearly something going on in Kansas. We know that Roberts was definitely hurt by the primary and he is not in the strongest position right now.”

Trading Points

Duffy said having the Democrat’s name on the ballot might be “worth a few points” to the incumbent Republican because some would check the name not knowing he didn’t actually want the job. Equally important, she said, is that a Libertarian candidate also is in the race and may take votes from Roberts.

“It may just end up balancing out,” she said, adding that “this may not be over yet” if there is a legal challenge.

The Rothenberg Political Report yesterday changed its rating of the race to “Toss-Up/Tilt Republican” from “Republican Favored.”

Prior to the secretary of state’s opinion, Rothenberg called Roberts the “most vulnerable Republican Senator in the country” and said that a “spectacular confluence of events has built the credible scenario that a Republican could lose a U.S. Senate race in Kansas.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.