The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor’s name should be removed from the ballot in November, overruling Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).
The much-anticipated ruling in one of the most-watched Senate races of 2014 means national Democrats are closer to their perceived goal of clearing the field for independent candidate Greg Orman. Polling suggests that Orman, who had briefly run as a Democrat in 2008 and is open to caucusing with either party, is better positioned to knock off the vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.
But the matter might not be fully resolved.
After the ruling, Kobach quickly moved to put another obstacle in the way of Democrats’ plan. Kobach reiterated his position that the Democratic Party is required under state law to replace Taylor on the ballot. He said he had notified the party chair that Taylor should be replaced and moved the mailing date for ballots from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27 to give Democrats time to pick a new nominee.
Election law expert Rick Hasen said on his blog that Kobach would likely have to sue the Democratic Party to force it to replace Taylor. A Democratic Party spokesperson did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
The court said Thursday that it did not need to address whether Taylor should be replaced under state law because that issue was not before it.
Kobach had declared earlier this month that Taylor’s name would have to remain on the ballot, despite his attempt to withdraw. Taylor then sued Kobach to reverse his decision, and the court sided with Taylor on Thursday.
“Our determination that the uncontroverted contents of Taylor’s September 3 letter timely satisfy the statutory requirements for withdrawal now leads us to Kobach’s clearly defined duty imposed by the law,” the court wrote in its unanimous decision. “Kobach’s attorney admitted at oral arguments that if the letter was held to comply with the statute, Kobach would have no discretion.”