Kansas’ secretary of state has ruled that the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate cannot resign from the ballot.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) announced Thursday that Democratic nominee Chad Taylor did not file the appropriate letter in order to resign from the ballot on Wednesday. Kobach said that he was siding with a provision in Kansas law that requires that a candidate withdrawing from an election ballot has to state they are “incapable” from serving in the office if elected in order to withdraw. Wednesday was the last day for a candidate to withdraw from the Kansas ballot.
“Mr. Taylor is an attorney and he is capable of reading the statue,” Kobach said at a press conference at his Topeka office. “There have been many non-attorneys who have withdrawn candidacies and they are capable of reading the statue.”
Garrett Haake, a reporter with 41 Action News in Kansas City, tweeted early Thursday evening that Taylor planned to challenge Kobach’s ruling.
Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, filed his withdrawal letter with Kobach’s office on Wednesday but did not state why he was dropping out of the race. Taylor had been trailing in a race against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and independent Greg Orman. Taylor’s withdrawal has tossed the Senate race in the GOP state into the toss-up category with Orman being viewed as a stronger challenger in a head-to-head match-up with Roberts. Orman, who has donated to Democratic candidates along with Republicans, has not indicated which party he would caucus with in the Senate. The Kansas race could decide which party controls the Senate.
Kobach, a former law professor, indicated that he and attorneys in his office researched the state law on the subject in a marathon series of meetings since Taylor withdrew on Wednesday. He said that the state Legislature’s 1997 decision to include the “incapable” wording in the election law was what made him decide to keep Taylor on the ballot.
“We looked for all case law interpreting this statue,” he said. “There is none.”
Kobach said he also consulted with state Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) about the legality of Taylor’s withdrawal and that Schmidt was in agreement. Kobach said he did not consult with Republican Party officials in Topeka or Washington about the decision.
Kobach stressed that he taught statutory interpretation as a law professor and during that time he taught that the words in a law have to have a meaning. He said the decision he was making was giving a meaning to the 1997 law.
“Any person who has been nominated by any means for any national, state, county or township office who declares that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected may cause such person’s name to be withdrawn from nomination by a request in writing, signed by the person and acknowledged before an officer qualified to take acknowledgments of deeds,” KSA 25-306b reads.
Taylor’s letter was in writing and was notarized by an employee in Kobach’s office who is a notary public, according to Taylor’s campaign.
Kobach noted that as part of his research, he and his attorneys reviewed past candidate withdrawals and they contained the incapable language. He cited a 2012 case of a state legislative candidate who withdrew after deciding not to relocate to Kansas from Idaho in order to run. He said a candidate needed to state the incapable either before or at the same time as filing the withdrawal letter and that the incapable statement needed to be filed in writing with the secretary of state’s office.
Taylor on Thursday released a statement that state Elections Director Brad Bryant had approved the letter before Taylor had given it to the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday and that he is not a candidate. Kobach said on Thursday that Bryant told him that he did not approve the letter.
Kansas Republicans had indicated earlier on Thursday that they were considering legal action to keep Taylor on the ballot should Kobach allow the Democrat to drop out.
Kobach said that Taylor is not legally mandated to continue campaigning for the Senate and that his name would only remain on the ballot. Taylor’s presence on the ballot could take away votes from Orman and assist Roberts’ campaign.
Kobach’s decision comes as national Republicans have rushed in to rescue Roberts’ candidacy. The New York Times reported that top Washington, D.C.-based Republican operatives were being sent to Kansas to take over the campaign from Roberts’ staff.
The Celock Report confirmed with multiple sources in Kansas politics that longtime Roberts aide, Leroy Towns, had resigned as executive campaign manager on Thursday following the decision to have Washington-based strategists take over.
Kobach noted that since Taylor is still on the ballot, the state Democratic Party does not need to find a replacement nominee.
He said that Taylor could go to court to get his name off the ballot, but noted time is of the essence since military ballots head to the printer on Sept. 17.
“It is fixed barring some sort of injunction or judicial action,” Kobach said.