Kansas Democrat Files Lawsuit To Get Off Ballot

Kansas Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor really doesn’t want to be on the ballot in November:

Chad Taylor, the Democrat attempting to drop out of the Kansas Senate race, filed a petition with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to remove his name from the ballot and block state officials from printing ballots with his name included.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, ruled last week that Taylor’s name must remain on the ballot because he failed to declare himself incapable of serving as a senator prior to a Sept. 3 deadline.

“By keeping my name on the ballot despite my explicit and timely withdrawal, the Secretary of State is conscripting me to run for office, in violation of my First Amendment rights,” Taylor said in a sworn affidavit filed with the court. “I do not want to be a candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2014 election and do not want the ballot for that election to associate me with the Senate race.”

Kobach’s decision dealt a blow to those hoping to unseat longtime Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who’s facing a challenge from independent Greg Orman. Without Taylor on the ballot, polls show Orman within striking distance of toppling Roberts.

Whether Taylor remains on the ballot could have national ramifications. Republicans hoping to take back the Senate in November are counting on Roberts holding his usually safe seat — and Orman hasn’t yet said whether he’ll partner with Republicans or Democrats if he wins.

In his filing, Taylor argues that he followed the legal advice of Kobach’s own senior election aide, Brad Bryant, when he submitted a letter declaring his intent to withdraw from the race. In the challenge, Taylor asserts that Bryant repeatedly gave him verbal confirmation that he had met the legal requirement to withdraw from the race. Kobach’s office has dismissed that argument, contending that Taylor, an attorney, should have been clear on the law.

Kansas law requires candidates wishing to remove themselves from the ballot to declare that they would be unable to perform their duties if elected. Taylor’s letter made no such declaration, Kobach determined.

Taylor’s challenge was filed by Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray. Irigonegaray told POLITICO he wouldn’t comment on the content of the challenge and was reserving his argument for the state Supreme Court, which he said he hoped would consider the matter shortly. Kobach has argued that ballots must be printed by Sept. 18 in order to send them to overseas and military voters, and Taylor’s challenge points to that deadline to argue for a quick resolution by the high court.

“I believe that this is an incredibly important case for Kansas and for our nation,” Irigonegaray said.

As I noted last week when Kobach said that he would not remove Taylor’s name from the ballot, the statute in question does seem to have some ambiguity. However, if a Court determines that the letter to the Secretary of State must contain some statement regarding the candidates inability to fullfil the duties of the offices that they were nominated for then it seems quite apparent that Taylor’s letter was not compliant. Additionally, it doesn’t strike me that as plausible that Taylor can rely on the alleged representations of an employee of the Secretary of State’s office. The law says what it says, if someone in a government office gives out what essentially amounts to bad legal advice that doesn’t mean the law can or should be ignored.

Keeping Taylor on the ballot would obviously be a blessing to Roberts, but if the most recent poll of this race is any indication then Roberts may be in trouble even if Taylor stays on the ballot. In either case, it looks like we’ll be paying more attention to Kansas for the next two months than anyone anticipated.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Pinky says:

    The law says what it says, if someone in a government office gives out what essentially amounts to bad legal advice that doesn’t mean the law can or should be ignored.

    Is that right as a matter of law? Isn’t there some kind of assumption of good faith?

  2. David in KC says:

    Kobach should have recused himself on this one, he is on Roberts’ steering committee. Actually, I have a problem with the guy responsible for elections being on a candidate’s steering committee. It just seems odd.

  3. Neil Hudelson says:

    What type of deal did Taylor make with whats his name? I mean…wow. Not only did Taylor hurt any chances he had of a political career, he’s now burned those chances, spread the ashes in the wind, and salted the ground he burned them on.

    “I do not want to be a candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2014 election and do not want the ballot for that election to associate me with the Senate race.”

    will be used against him (should he ever run for any future office) in the same way Palin’s resignation is brought up every time she talks about “if I were the President.”*

    *Fair play in both circumstances.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Somehow or other I think he, like Palin, will do just fine in his future endeavors, tho I suspect his future endeavors will be a little different than hers.

  5. @Pinky:

    It’s fairly black letter law as far as I know. Which is why, for example, you’re not supposed to rely on “legal” advice from courthouse employees

  6. rudderpedals says:

    Taking the advice is one thing but ITYM State AG office staff (courthouse employees) are not supposed to give advice. Whether the reliance was reasonable in light of the circumstances (it was definitely detrimental) is the crux of the matter and as you pointed out in an earlier post on this, it’s estoppel mushed together with election law.

    The AG is patently conflicted and it troubles me as it did David in KC and others. It’s reminiscent of Katherine Harris’ official rulings in favor of the candidate upon whose campaign committee she served. Seeing how things worked out for Harris that’s probably good for Kobach.

  7. Pinky says:

    It looks to me like Taylor failed to follow the letter of the law (he didn’t write that he is unable to perform the duties of the office) as well as the spirit of the law (he’s looking for a way out despite being able to fulfill the duties of the office). The only angle he’s got is that he was tricked.

  8. EddieInCA says:

    @Pinky:

    As I asked in the previous post:

    Isn’t saying “I don’t want to run for office” by itself an admission that you aren’t able to fulfill the duties of the office?

  9. DrDaveT says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Isn’t saying “I don’t want to run for office” by itself an admission that you aren’t able to fulfill the duties of the office?

    On the contrary. Douglas Adams made a compelling case in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that only those unwilling to run or serve can possibly be competent to do the job. Anyone who wants the job is clearly unfit.

  10. Pinky says:

    @EddieInCA: There are a lot of things that I have the ability to do that I don’t want to do. Exercise, take out the trash, spend fifteen minutes in the Jiffy Lube waiting area…most of adulthood is doing things you don’t want to. And it isn’t like he suddenly discovered he doesn’t have the ability to serve. He ran for office intending to serve. Is he supposed to have discovered his previously-unknown inability to serve right around the time that the polling data changed?

  11. Rick DeMent says:

    @Pinky:

    And it isn’t like he suddenly discovered he doesn’t have the ability to serve. He ran for office intending to serve. Is he supposed to have discovered his previously-unknown inability to serve right around the time that the polling data changed?

    Well … something came up. I mean as excuses go it’s not anywhere near as lame as some of the stuff I’m suppose to believe with a straight face coming out of the Republican party these days.

  12. pylon says:

    Two more things, based on the hearing:

    1. The letter says Taylor is withdrawing “pursuant to” the statute. Arguably by saying that he is incorporating what the statute says and doesn’t have to spell it out. Sorta like if I declare I am eligible to run for office pursuant to the relevant statute I don’thave to spell out all my qualifications in the declaration.

    2. Turns out Kobach’s office has allowed many others to withdraw with letters that are the same or weaker.