The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Democrat Chad Taylor will not appear on the general-election ballot as a candidate for Senate — and it all came down to just two words Taylor included in his letter to the secretary of state's office.
The ruling is a boon for independent candidate Greg Orman, who already had a legitimate chance to oust Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. His odds undoubtedly improved by Taylor's removal from the ballot, since Taylor can no longer take up any anti-Roberts votes. Taylor had raised little money and gotten minimal traction in polls, and he ended his candidacy earlier this month. But Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, said his name would still appear on the ballot because he did not declare himself incapable of serving, which Kobach said was necessary under Kansas law for him to withdraw. Taylor took the case to court to get himself off the ballot.
The court ruled Taylor's statement had sufficiently complied with the law and his name would be removed from the ballot. The decision relied upon the meaning of "pursuant to."
In his brief letter to the secretary of state, Taylor requested his name be withdrawn "pursuant to K.S.A. 25-306b(b)" — the state law requiring one to be incapable of serving to be removed from the ballot. Citing the Black's Law Dictionary definition of the phrase as "in compliance with; in accordance with," the court ruled Taylor in his letter "effectively declares he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected."
Republicans, including Kansan and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran, are arguing Democrats must still replace Taylor on the ballot.
"There's still another question to be answered, and that is the statute in Kansas says when there's a vacancy, the party shall replace the person who has withdrawn or [is] removed from the ballot with another candidate," Moran told CQ Roll Call. "I think that's the next legal question to be resolved."
Sen. John McCain, who is scheduled to campaign for Roberts, downplayed the court's ruling. "I think the people of Kansas knew enough about the race that it was almost irrelevant whether the guy was on or not," he said.
"I've yet to meet an independent that was truly an independent, with all due respect," said McCain, an Arizona Republican, when asked about Orman. "I think if you look at his record it's pretty clear where his party allegiance is," McCain said.
The race is rated Tilts Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Niels Lesniewski and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report. Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.