- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas court ruled Wednesday that Democrats can go without a U.S. Senate candidate on the ballot after their nominee dropped out of the race against three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, a blow to the GOP in the national battle over control of the Senate.

A panel of three Shawnee County District Court judges said a state election law does not require Democrats to fill the candidate vacancy. The judges also said the disgruntled voter who sued the state Democratic Party and three of its top officials failed “to provide evidence to sustain it” by refusing to participate in the only hearing in the case Monday.

Some Democrats pushed former nominee Chad Taylor out of the race because they saw independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival for Roberts and didn’t want to split the anti-Roberts vote.

The Kansas Supreme Court allowed Taylor to remove his name from the Nov. 4 ballot last month, but the voter immediately sued the Democratic Party.

Many Democrats didn’t want to have a candidate to avoid a split in the anti-Roberts vote, while many Republicans hoped Democrats would be forced to replace Taylor, to siphon votes away from Orman.

The GOP needs a net gain of six seats to recapture a Senate majority and has always counted on Roberts winning re-election in a state that has elected only Republicans to the chamber since 1932. But Roberts looked vulnerable after a difficult primary against a tea party challenger and still faces questions about his residency after a long career in Washington.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach — a Republican and a strong Roberts supporter who unsuccessfully sought to block Taylor’s removal from the ballot — said counties need to begin printing tens of thousands of ballots Thursday so that people could start voting in advance on Oct. 15.

The lawsuit was filed by David Orel, 57, a longtime registered Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas. His 22-year-old son, Alex, works on the re-election campaign of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, a Roberts supporter.

Orel’s attorney, Tom Haney, of Topeka, said Orel simply wants to vote for a Democrat in the Nov. 4 election. He refused to show up Monday for the only hearing in the case because, Haney said, he faced intense news media scrutiny.

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