The nationally-watched decision to refuse Kansas Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor's request to remove his name from the November ballot was "an easy call" because of "his failure to follow the letter of the law," says the state official who made that decision.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach explained why he had to deny the withdrawal request of Shawnee County District Attorney Taylor.
With some polls showing millionaire businessman and independent candidate Greg Orman leading veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R.-Kan.) and Democratic nominee Taylor a distant third, Taylor had attempted to get out of the race.
State and national Democrats strongly backed this move—presumably to help elect Orman and secure his vote for Democratic control of the Senate next year. (Orman, who has been a Republican and briefly sought the Democratic Senate nomination in 2008, has not said which major party he will side with if elected as an independent in November.)
But Kobach last week said that Taylor must remain on the ballot.
Citing the Sunflower State statute KSA-25-306-b, Kobach noted that for someone to withdraw as a nominee for office, "he or she must formally withdraw no later than seven days after the state Board of Canvassers meets to certify the nominees of the party." Taylor's announcement of withdrawal came on Wednesday, September 3, which was the last day possible--seven days after the meeting of the Canvassers following the Kansas primaries August 5.
Kobach cited Subsection B of the same statute, which requires a nominee desiring to withdraw to "first, declare in writing his or her inability to fulfill the duties of the office sought and second, to have that request to withdraw notarized. Mr. Taylor did the latter but not the former."
"Before 1997, it was easy to get off the state ballot," explained Kobach, a onetime assistant to former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and best known nationally as author of Arizona's controversial law dealing with illegal immigration, "But that year, the Kansas legislature amended the law to require that declaration of inability to fulfill the duties of the office.
"By making it more difficult to remove one's name as a nominee, the legislature was saying that getting out of a race after nomination is not frivolous business and thus facilitating a more efficient administration of elections."
Kobach also noted the lateness of Taylor's attempted exodus from the race. In his words, "[Taylor] called our office the week before the deadline for removing one's name from the November ballot, and, at the last day on the last hour possible, he filed the request for withdrawal."
Had the Democratic nominee not waited until the last minute, he added, "He might have been informed that his withdrawal did not meet the requirements of the law, and he would have had a second chance to withdraw from the race legally and properly."
The secretary of state also voiced confidence to us that his decision would withstand any court challenge state Democrats are reportedly planning. He noted that all the "relevant attorneys" of the state, in the office of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General's office, have confirmed that Kobach made the call he did according to the letter of the law.
"Since 1997, numerous people have followed the procedure for withdrawing from a race correctly and a number of them were not attorneys," Kobach told us, "Mr. Taylor is a lawyer and was obviously capable of reading the requirement for that declaration [of inability to fulfill the duties of the office]. But obviously, he didn't do what the law required."
So Kobach's decision sets the stage for the first statewide race in Kansas featuring both major party nominees and an independent since 1932. That year, Dr. John Brinkley, known for his controversial procedure of transplanting goat glands into patients, ostensibly to increase their virility, drew nearly 30% of the vote running for governor as an independent.
Democratic Gov. Harry Woodring was defeated. The winner, with barely a third of the vote, was Republican Alf Landon, who would become best-known as his party's presidential nominee in 1936 and the father of future Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R.-Kan.).
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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