TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas must remove the name of the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from the ballot, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday, in a decision that could make it harder for three-term Sen. Pat Roberts to win re-election in November as part of a Republican drive to win a Senate majority.
The court’s decision means the 78-year-old Roberts could be left with one major opponent, independent Greg Orman, who Democrats believe has a better shot at defeating Roberts than their own candidate.
Some Democrats nudged party nominee Chad Taylor out of the race earlier this month to avoid a major split of anti-Roberts votes. Taylor announced that he was withdrawing, but Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican publicly backing Roberts, declared that Taylor didn’t comply with a state election law limiting when nominees can withdraw. Taylor petitioned the Supreme Court to remove his name from the ballot.
The justices unanimously agreed with Taylor, saying his formal letter of withdrawal to the secretary of state’s office was sufficient to get his name off the ballot.
Kansas law says party nominees can have their names removed from the ballot if they declare that they’ll be incapable of fulfilling the duties of the offices they seek. Taylor did not say he was incapable of serving, but the justices said they were satisfied with his letter of withdrawal.
The political and legal battle over the ballot in Kansas may not be over yet.
At a news conference after the court decision, Kobach said he was giving the Democratic party a week to name a new candidate and would hold up printing ballots during that time. He had previously said ballots had to be printed Friday so counties could begin sending them to overseas voters such as military from Kansas.
Asked what he would do if Democrats did not name a new candidate, Kobach said he would review his legal options.
Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to take the majority from Democrats and Kansas is one of about a dozen races nationally that could determine the outcome. Recent opinion polls have suggested Roberts could be vulnerable in a head-to-head race with Orman.
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