Despite dropping out of the Kansas Senate race this week, Democrat Chad Taylor will remain on the ballot, Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced on Thursday. [...] Kobach told reporters that candidates must declare they are "incapable" of serving if elected in order to withdraw their name from the ballot. "The law is the law," Kobach said, according to The Kansas City Star.
It seemed pretty straightforward. Chad Taylor, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Kansas, decided he wanted to drop out of the race and have his name removed from the statewide ballot. He contacted state elections officials, received guidance, filed the paperwork, and announced his decision to the public.
Piece of cake, right? Wrong.
And if the law were unambiguous, Kobach might have a credible argument. But it's not -- as elections-law expert Rick Hasen explained, the relevant statute isn't entirely clear. Indeed, it's probably why state elections officials reached the opposite conclusion the day before Kobach's decision.
Part of the problem with the process, of course, is that Kobach has an obvious conflict of interest. The far-right Kansas Secretary of State, a notorious figure for all sorts of reasons, is an active supporter of Sen. Pat Roberts (R). At the same time, Kobach is chiefly responsible for deciding who'll appear on the ballot in the race against Sen. Pat Roberts (R) -- and in this case, the Secretary of State apparently wants the senator to have two opponents, instead of one, thereby dividing the vote and improving Roberts' chances.
A legitimate elections process isn't supposed to work this way.
So what happens now?
Chad Taylor can go to court, and may yet do exactly that, but I'm not entirely sure how much it matters in practical terms. If Taylor makes no effort to campaign, and specifically tells supporters not to vote for him, it stands to reason he won't receive too many votes.
If the broader point is to create a head-to-head match-up, pitting Roberts against independent candidate Greg Orman, that dynamic can still largely exist, regardless of the names on the ballot.
As for Roberts, the longtime Republican incumbent effectively stopped campaigning after he won his unexpectedly difficult primary, with one of his top campaign officials announcing that Roberts had returned "home" -- which is to say, the senator's home in Washington, D.C., since Roberts doesn't actually own a home in the state he represents.
All of this has changed in a hurry. Yesterday, Republican officials in Washington started to panic, getting rid of Roberts' executive campaign manager, replacing him with a GOP operative with more experience in tough election fights, and "moved to take control" of Roberts' operation.
Especially this time of year, the parties can't bluff when it comes to competitive races. It's plain as day which campaigns both sides care about most -- we can see it in their expenditures.
When party officials say they're not at all worried about a race, but they're scrambling to invest in it, we know they're lying. Similarly, when party officials say they're optimistic about a competitive race, but they haven't invested in it at all, they're also lying.
Given yesterday's moves, there can be no doubt that Republicans are deeply concerned about Kansas.