Kris Kobach moves to shift Chad Taylor ballot lawsuit from Kansas Supreme Court to Shawnee County

Secretary of State Kris Kobach moved Wednesday to shift Chad Taylor’s lawsuit against the state’s chief election officer to Shawnee County District Court.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach moved Wednesday to shift Chad Taylor’s lawsuit against the state’s chief election officer to Shawnee County District Court. File photo

The legal battle over Democrats’ efforts to get their nominee off the ballot in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas heated up Wednesday, with a prominent party attorney from Washington helping and Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach moving again to thwart the attempt.

Some Democrats last week nudged nominee Chad Taylor out of the race with three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, but Kobach has refused to remove Taylor’s name from the Nov. 4 ballot. Kobach, a conservative Republican who’s backing Roberts, said Taylor failed to comply with a state election law that limits when party nominees can withdraw.

Taylor filed a petition Tuesday with the Kansas Supreme Court, hoping to force Kobach to remove his name from the ballot. Kobach filed a notice Wednesday questioning whether the case should be heard in district court instead but also asking the justices to force Democrats to pick a new nominee if the high court sides with Taylor.

Meanwhile, one of Taylor’s attorneys, Pedro Irigonegaray of Topeka, asked the Supreme Court to allow an out-of-state attorney, Marc Elias, to participate in the case. Elias is a partner in a Washington law firm that represents Democratic candidates across the nation, and his other clients include the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Taylor’s departure from the race was seen as improving the chances for independent candidate Greg Orman to defeat Roberts and potentially blocking the national GOP’s ambitions to capture control of the Senate. Republicans have counted on the 78-year-old Roberts being re-elected in a state in which the GOP has won every Senate race since 1932.

The Supreme Court has yet to set a hearing in the case. Kobach urged the justices to act quickly, noting that county election officials must print ballots by Sept. 18 so they can meet a deadline two days later to send them to military personnel overseas.

“We are under a very compressed time schedule,” he said.

The Roberts and Orman campaigns would not comment publicly, nor would members of Taylor’s legal team. Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, also refused to answer questions about the case following a news conference about a capital murder case involving the recent shooting of a Topeka police officer.

“I’m not talking about it today,” he said of the ballot issue.

Kobach, a former law professor, has said state law is clear in allowing party nominees to be removed from the ballot only if they die or declare in writing that they are “incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected.” Taylor cited the statute number in a letter of withdrawal to Kobach’s office but has not said why he is withdrawing.

Taylor said two election officials in the secretary of state’s office assured him his letter was sufficient to withdraw. Kobach has disputed Taylor’s version of events.

Kobach said in his notice that because such facts are disputed, a district court should hear the case first. But he said even if the Supreme Court disagrees and sides with Taylor, state law would require Democrats to pick another nominee.

Meanwhile, the campaign continued, with Roberts’ campaign sending a recorded telephone message featuring Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, to 400,000 Republican and unaffiliated voters across the state.

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