A Kansas district court ruled Wednesday that the state Democratic Party does not have to name a new Senate nominee, bringing an end to the long saga that began with the withdrawal of the Democratic nominee last month and setting up a showdown between independent candidate Greg Orman and incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R).
The Shawnee County district court said it could dismiss the case both because the plaintiff, a registered Democratic voter, David Orel, failed to show for the oral hearing and on the merits.
Orel had sued to force his party to pick a new nominee after the Kansas Supreme Court ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who attempted to join him in the lawsuit, to remove former Democratic nominee Chad Taylor from the ballot.
“The legal history for the proper context to be placed on this statute and what we believe is its commonsense meaning reflects a discretionary judgment is left to be made by the political party of the withdrawn candidate as to whether a vacancy is to be filled or not,” the court wrote. “Therefore, mandamus, as a remedy, is simply not appropriate given the discretion, the intrusiveness and the impracticality that giving jurisdictional recognition to the Plaintiff or the relief sought would otherwise demand.”
Kobach sided with Orel and attempted to be made a party to the lawsuit. Since Taylor announced he would withdraw from the race, Kobach has been working to keep a Democratic nominee on the ballot, first by ruling that Taylor must stay on the ballot then by backing Orel’s lawsuit after the state’s high court overruled him.
“I believe this is the end of the road for this case,” election law expert Rick Hasen of the University of California-Irvine wrote on his blog, though he acknowledged that Kobach could try to appeal to the state’s supreme court.
“If there were more time, a possible appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court could be a possibility,” he wrote. “But to bring it now would be a fool’s errand, and if Kobach brings it he’ll look even more partisan than he has looked in this whole mess.”
Without a Democratic nominee, the Senate race is down to Orman and Roberts, which was the goal of the Democratic maneuvering all along. Early polling since Taylor’s withdrawal has shown Orman with a clear lead on Roberts. He holds a 1-point edge, according to TPM’s PollTracker average.