Chaos in Kansas Plays to Pat Roberts' Favor

Pat Roberts

The bizarre Kansas Senate race took another twist yesterday when the Kansas Secretary of State ruled that Democrat Chad Taylor, who had attempted to withdraw from the race, would still be on the final ballot:

The Kansas Senate campaign upended again Thursday when Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Democrat Chad Taylor must remain on the ballot — less than 24 hours after Taylor filed papers to withdraw from the race.

Late Thursday, Taylor vowed to challenge that decision.

Kobach cited a 1997 Kansas statute requiring a withdrawing candidate to declare he or she is “incapable” of serving if elected. Taylor’s letter, Kobach said, referenced the law but did not contain the required language.

“The law is crystal clear here,” he told The Star. “If anyone thinks there was any political motivation, I would ask how they can possibly read the law any other way.”

The Democrats have been pinning their hopes on Greg Orman, a well-financed independent. A look at Orman’s Issues statement indicates a series of stances on issues that look like the sort of rambling answers high schoolers give on essay tests when they don’t actually know the answer. About the only thing he clearly indicates is that he opposes Hobby Lobby and Citizens United, and is pro-choice. If these are the only clear ideological principles that someone can enunciate, it’s a safe bet that they’re a liberal.
Pat Roberts, though, has only himself to blame for finding himself vulnerable to an empty-suit bag of money like Orman. As Milton Wolf effectively pointed out in his campaign, Roberts has abandoned his home state in favor of Washington, D.C. and the interests that hold the festering swamp there captive. When voters become disaffected with the status quo in a state with a heavy partisan tilt towards the status quo’s party, the biggest vulnerability an incumbent often has is not to a member of the opposing party, but rather an alleged “independent” who has lots of money, no actual record, and the ability to fool large numbers of low-information voters with low-information rhetoric during a short campaign season.
The presence of Taylor on the ballot, however, complicates things for Greg Orman. On election day, some non-trivial number of voters will go into the booth and instinctively tick off the Democrat choice all the way down the ballot. Presumably, if these voters faced the same ballot with Roberts and an independent, would vote for the Independent, on the theory that they would instinctively vote for opposition to the Republican at the very least. Thus, Taylor remaining on the ballot reduces Orman’s chance of winning by a significant margin – and additionally will improve Roberts’ chances by forcing Taylor and other Democrat operatives to come out and loudly encourage people to vote for Orman instead of Taylor, which will help Roberts accurately point out that Orman is a not well disguised Democrat stalking horse.
This has put Taylor in the unusual position of having to threaten legal action to have himself removed from the ballot, although it’s unclear what form that legal action would take or how it could be effective before the Sept. 18th deadline when military ballots are mailed out:

Kansas Democrats were up in arms, and Taylor himself said shortly after Kobach announced his decision that he’s going to contest it, noting the fact he was told by an elections official the document he submitted Wednesday was sufficient to remove him from the ballot.

“I am planning to challenge the ruling of the Kansas Secretary of State, who serves on Pat Roberts’ Honorary Committee,” Taylor said in a statement.

I am not sure he deserves this good fortune that has befallen him, but Roberts’ chances of victory appear to have gotten brighter in the last 24 hours.