(AP) – A key contest in the fight for control of the Senate could turn on the outcome of an arcane legal argument Monday over whether Democrats must field a candidate against struggling Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
The case centers on whether a state election law requires Democrats to pick a new candidate after ex-nominee Chad Taylor withdrew earlier this month or whether the party can choose not to replace him. Some Democrats pushed Taylor out, viewing independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival for Roberts and hoping to avoid a split in the anti-Roberts vote that would help the GOP incumbent stay in office.
Republicans need to gain six seats for a Senate majority, and the GOP has always counted on the 78-year-old Roberts winning in a state that has elected only Republicans to the chamber since 1932. Orman, a 45-year-old Olathe businessman, is running as a centrist – promising to caucus with whichever party has a majority and play kingmaker if neither does. Roberts has struggled after a bruising primary and questions about his residency in Kansas.
Taylor had to petition the Kansas Supreme Court to force Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Roberts supporter, to remove the Democrat’s name from the Nov. 4 ballot. Minutes after the high court ruling, a disgruntled voter sued the Democratic Party to get a replacement on the ballot, and Kobach is attempting to intervene again.
Rebecca Green, a law professor and co-director of the Election Law Program at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, said such a case represents “a court’s worst nightmare” because of the jockeying between the Republicans and Democrats, so any ruling will be perceived as political.