- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic leaders in Kansas face another legal battle aimed at forcing them to pick a new U.S. Senate candidate, after the state Supreme Court removed their nominee from the ballot in a move that could hurt three-term incumbent Pat Roberts and Republican hopes for a Senate majority.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach must honor Democrat Chad Taylor’s request to be removed from the Nov. 4 ballot. Minutes later, a disgruntled Democratic voter — whose son works on GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign — filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to require the Democratic Party to name a new candidate.

Some Democrats pushed Taylor out of the race — and don’t want to have a nominee — to leave independent candidate Greg Orman as the only major rival to the 78-year-old Roberts. They view Orman, a 45-year-old Olathe businessman and co-founder of a private equity firm, as a stronger candidate than Taylor, 40, the Topeka-area district attorney, and feared a split in the anti-Roberts vote.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take the Senate majority from Democrats, and Kansas is one of about a dozen races nationally that could determine the outcome. Recent opinion polls suggested Roberts may be vulnerable in a head-to-head race with Orman.

Kobach said during a news conference that state law requires party committees to fill candidacy vacancies. The court specifically declined to address that question in Thursday’s decision.

The secretary of state announced that he pushed back the deadline for printing ballots by a week, to Sept. 26, to give Democrats time to pick a new candidate. Speaking before the new petition was public, Kobach said he was reviewing his options should Democrats refuse.

The voter filing the new petition is David Orel, 57, of Kansas City, Kansas. His son, Alexander, is regional Kansas City-area field director for Brownback’s re-election campaign. Kobach and Brownback serve on Roberts‘ honorary campaign committee, and the Brownback and Roberts campaigns have offices in the same Topeka strip mall.

Tom Haney, a Topeka attorney representing David Orel, said he feels disenfranchised and wants to vote for a Democrat in November. Haney, like Kobach, argues that Democrats are legally obligated to find a new candidate.

“This is just based on the law,” Haney said.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon did not immediately return telephone messages Thursday evening, but she’s said previously that the party doesn’t expect to pick a new nominee.

The dispute over Taylor’s exit focused on his letter of withdrawal, which Kobach said wasn’t sufficient under a law limiting when candidates can withdraw. The Supreme Court said it was.



Click here for Kansas Supreme Court site for the Taylor-Kobach dispute.

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