Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor filed a legal challenge Tuesday with the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse a controversial decision by the Republican secretary of state preventing the Democrat’s withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race. Taylor, who won the Democratic primary in August, is seeking an emergency restraining order prohibiting Secretary of State Kris Kobach from including Taylor’s name on the Nov. 4 general election ballots. Kansas ballots need to be set by Sept. 18, but it is unclear when the court would convene to hear the case. “This is an important issue, not just for Kansas, but for our nation,” said Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who filed the petition on Taylor’s behalf. “Because of this importance, I believe the best thing I can do is to reserve my comments and arguments for the Kansas Supreme Court.” In the petition naming Kobach as respondent, Irigonegaray wrote the secretary of state’s refusal to recognize Taylor’s departure from the race would “constitute the unlawful performance of his duties.” Taylor submitted documents Sept. 3 to Kobach’s staff to exit a compelling Senate race among himself, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, independent candidate Greg Orman and Libertarian Randall Batson. Employees in Kobach’s office accepted Taylor’s letter of withdrawal, but Kobach one day later declared Taylor had to remain on the ballot.
There is broad interest in outcome of the snarled ballot issue because majority rule in the Senate may hang in the balance, and new polling indicated Orman, a wealthy Kansas City-area businessman, had moved ahead of Roberts. A ballot with three contenders would likely split anti-incumbent votes to the benefit of Roberts, who is campaigning for a fourth term in the Senate.
The chairman of the Kansas Republican Party jumped into the dispute Tuesday by raising questions about Taylor’s capacity to continue as Shawnee County district attorney if he viewed himself as incapable of serving as a U.S. senator. The Kansas Democratic Party’s chairwoman fired back, and much of her wrath targeted Kobach.
Kobach, who is on Roberts’ honorary re-election committee, leaned on a 1997 Kansas law stipulating that a withdrawing candidate detail that she or he was incapable of serving if elected. Taylor made reference to state law in his letter, but he didn’t explain why he was stepping aside.