Kansas Supreme Court justices grilled Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s attorney at a special court hearing Tuesday about whether Democrat Chad Taylor should remain on the ballot as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Taylor’s suit to remove his name from the ballot is unprecedented in the state. Republicans see Taylor’s attempt to withdraw as a not-so-covert plan by national Democrats to boost Greg Orman’s independent candidacy against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in November. Democrats say that Kobach, a supporter of Roberts, has overstepped his bounds as secretary of state to keep Taylor on the ballot against his will. The suit hinges on whether Taylor adhered to a statute that requires candidates to declare that they are incapable of serving in order to withdraw. Pedro Irigonegaray, Taylor’s attorney, argued that Kobach lacked the legal authority to make that determination because the statute does not specifically say that it’s up to the secretary of state to decide whether candidates have met the standard. He also contended that the statute does not specifically say the declaration has to be in writing.
Edward Greim, who represented Kobach, argued that as the top election officer, Kobach has the power and duty to enforce the statute. “If it (the declaration) could be made at home to someone’s goldfish, then the statute is meaningless,” Greim said. Justice Lee Johnson said the court’s role is to interpret the plain language, not to provide meaningful enforcement. “We have to add language to get to your interpretation,” he told Greim.
The justices flooded Greim with questions. Before he could describe why Taylor’s letter missed the requirements, Justice Carol Beier cut in with a question about another letter submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office by Miranda Rickel, a House candidate who withdrew from a race in District 5 this year.
Rickel described in her letter how juggling jobs and college classes made it “nearly impossible” to mount a campaign. “Her letter says it will be ‘nearly impossible’…she does not say ‘incapable,’ ” Beier said. Greim said the letter contained facts that were tantamount to a declaration of incapability, but Irigonegaray said Rickel’s letter showed that she was incapable of running, not of serving. Justice Dan Biles also questioned whether Rickel’s letter had been properly notarized, another requirement of the statute. Her letter was stamped by a notary, but unlike Taylor’s letter, the notary did not note whether the letter was signed in front of her Biles said enforcement of this requirement appeared “loosey goosey.”