A Kansas district court ruled on Wednesday that the Democratic Party does not need to name a Senate candidate to take on incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts. This decision opens the door for independent candidate Greg Orman to face Roberts in a head-to-head battle. Recent polls have Orman up in a two-man race against Roberts. Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had hoped that the court would force the Democrats to name a replacement candidate to Chad Taylor, who dropped out of the race last month in order to give Orman a better shot at defeating Roberts in November.
After Taylor dropped out, Kobach tried to force Taylor’s name to remain on the ballot. The state’s Supreme Court informed Kobach that Taylor’s name must be removed from the ballots. At that point, Kobach orchestrated a lawsuit by having a ‘registered Democrat’ (who just so happened to be the father of a campaign field director for GOP Gov. Sam Brownback) demand that the Democratic Party place a candidate on the ballot. Dan Orel, the so-called aggrieved Democrat, did not appear at a evidentiary hearing to provide any statements or evidence. This definitely didn’t help Kobach’s case.
In its ruling Wednesday, the Shawnee County District Court wrote the following:
In a letter attached to his Memorandum in Support of his Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Mr. Orel’s counsel asserts that Mr. Orel “intends to vote for the Democratic Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate in the general election.” At oral arguments, Mr.Orel’s counsel stressed that this claim formed a specific and particular injury which was not shared with the general public.
The Court disagrees. Undoubtedly there are many. citizens who share such an interest, and they may well not be limited to Democrats only, but that does not demonstrate an injury or interest specific and peculiar to Mr. Orel. Put simply, if Mr. Orel has been “harmed,” it is the exact same “harm” affecting all other citizens of Kansas who have registered to vote and intend to vote: he cannot vote for a Democrat nominee at the general election. Frustrating, perhaps, but not of the substance for a mandamus claim without more, which “more” we will discuss later.
Further, the organizational leaders of recognized political parties in Kansas that hold primaries are democratically elected by a party’s registered, yet voluntary, constituents to represent what they believe to be the best interest of their respective political parties in obtaining their vision of proper government. K.S.A. 25-202; K.S.A. 25-3801, et seq. As in all matters of human activity, success in any goal rests in the character, stalwartness, and energy of those that are selected to perform the duty or duties assigned or the office sought. By the statute at issue, whether a vacancy in a candidacy is to be filled in the first instance would rest with the elected leadership, in this instance, of the Democrat party, which vacancy was brought about by the withdrawal of its nominee for United States Senate as selected at the earlier primary election.
To advance another candidate for a statewide race that under today’s political realities, which in order to be successful, requires enormous financial commitment and implicitly an assist by the nominating party, would be a judgment worthy of great pause before its making. For any potential candidate, there is also a personal commitment, which is fraught with personal, familial, and practical consequences much deeper than those engendered to mere financial contributors, moral supporters, actual voters, or a sponsoring party. Moreover, a candidate so selected now would be faced with a very time restricted window to successfully advance his or her views.
In other words — too bad, so sad. At this point, Kobach can’t do anything else to help Roberts win his election. With Taylor, and any other Democratic nominee, out of the way, Orman is going to be able to pick up all of the anti-Roberts and anti-Republican votes out there. The fact is, while Kansas remains a very conservative state, the policies championed by Brownback, Roberts and the rest of the far-right wing of the Republican Party have greatly damaged Kansas economically. Voters, many of them staunch Republicans, are looking to send a message this November that they are fine with a conservative government, but there are limits.
As it stands, Orman has been mum regarding who he will caucus with if he wins in November. When pressed on the subject, he has stated that he will caucus with whoever holds the majority come November. There is at least some confidence among Democrats that he’ll join with them, considering Taylor graciously pulled out of the race to provide Orman clear sailing against Roberts. Also, the two current independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) both currently caucus with Democrats. Joe Lieberman stuck with Democrats even after he became an independent. History does suggest that Orman will side with the Dems should be be victorious.