Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s position as chief Kansas elections officer is allowing him to play a marquee role in the political drama surrounding Democrat Chad Taylor’s attempt to get off the ballot in the U.S. Senate race. Taylor ended his campaign last week, nudged out of the race against three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts by Democrats who viewed independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival and wanted to consolidate most of the anti-Roberts vote behind Orman. The stakes are high: The GOP hopes to recapture control of the Senate, and those efforts would be hindered by a Roberts loss. Kobach, a conservative Republican and a member of Roberts’ honorary campaign committee, has faced a torrent of negative reviews for refusing to remove Taylor’s name from the ballot and for concluding the Democrat didn’t comply with a state law limiting when candidates can withdraw. The decision has Kobach’s political opponents adding new chapters to their existing narratives about how, in their view, he’s mishandled his official duties. But those official duties made Kobach — or any secretary of state — an administrative gatekeeper for Taylor or any other nominee seeking to get off the ballot. He couldn’t avoid coming on stage.
“This is at the core of the secretary of state’s responsibilities,” Kobach said. “The Kansas statutes detail numerous points in the elections process where the secretary of state has to exercise discretionary judgment and say, ‘Yes, this is good enough’ or ‘No, it’s not.'”
Taylor filed a petition asking the Kansas Supreme Court to order Kobach to take Taylor’s name off the Nov. 4 ballot. The justices plan to hear the case Tuesday and are expected to rule by the end of the week — when the state must start sending ballots to overseas military personnel.
Kobach’s decision to keep Taylor’s name on the ballot is reminding voters of how much he’s pulled the secretary of state’s office from the state’s political background.