Legal questions complicate Dem's exit from Kansas Senate race

Despite filing papers with the Kansas secretary of State to withdraw from the Senate race late Wednesday, Democrat Chad Taylor could be stuck on the ballot this fall.

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Two election law statutes have raised questions about whether Taylor gave sufficient cause to remove himself from the ballot, and, if so, whether Democrats must ultimately choose a candidate to replace him.

Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clay Barker told The Hill that Taylor is now back on the secretary of State’s list of general election candidates while a legal team analyzes the statutes.

One statute declares that, except under specific circumstances, “no person who has been nominated by any means for any national, state, county or township office may” withdraw their name from the ballot after Primary Day.

Those circumstances include death and if a nominee “declares that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected ... by a request in writing.”

While Taylor did submit a request in writing to the secretary of State’s office withdrawing his nomination and asking to be withdrawn from the ballot pursuant to that same statute, the letter makes no claim that the candidate would be unable to fulfill his duties if elected.

If the secretary of State does decide that Taylor’s name can be removed from the ballot, Democrats may still need to put up a candidate to replace him. A second statute declares that “when a vacancy occurs after a primary election in a party candidacy, such vacancy shall be filled by the party committee of the congressional district, county or state, as the case may be.”

Either requirement could complicate Democrats’ chances of defeating Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) this fall, which improved with Taylor’s decision to exit the race.

Kansas Democrats have been encouraging him to drop out for weeks, wary that he’d split the anti-Roberts vote with independent Greg Orman and allow Roberts to eke out a win.

They were also concerned that Taylor’s personal baggage, from a discrimination suit and his refusal to prosecute domestic assault cases, could not only cost them their shot at the Senate seat but hurt the party’s candidates downballot.

Orman is better-poised to run a strong general election campaign, having raised about five times as much as Taylor since entering the race in June. Democrats were also hopeful Orman could overcome the red lean of the state by running as an independent.

If Taylor is stuck on the ballot, those concerns about his baggage return. And if Democrats are required to choose a replacement for him, there’s again the chance their candidate could split any opposition vote with Orman and deliver Roberts a win.

—This post was updated on Sept. 4 at 9:27 a.m.  

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