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Politics, Elections and Government

Court: Democrats Won't Be on U.S. Senate Ballot

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Peggy Lowe
/
KCUR

Kansas Democrats won’t be forced to place a candidate on the ballot for U.S. Senate, a county court ruled Wednesday. The decision cleared the path for a two-way race between Republican incumbent Pat Roberts and Independent Greg Orman.

A Shawnee District Court three-judge panel denied a request by David Orel, a registered Democrat with ties to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, in part because he failed to show up for court last Monday.

The decision was not good news for Republicans, who had hoped that a Democrat on the ballot would dilute support for Independent Greg Orman and increase re-election chances for GOP incumbent Pat Roberts, who is key to the party’s hopes for a Senate majority.

It’s also another loss for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Roberts supporter, who had tried to intervene and argued that the Democratic Party must put up a candidate. The Shawnee District Court ruled that Kobach did not have standing in the lawsuit. Last month, the Kansas Supreme Court denied Kobach's argument that Democrat Chad Taylor's name should be printed on the ballot.

Immediately following the decision, Kobach ordered the state's 105 counties to start printing ballots.

The last-minute court fights were triggered when Taylor gave up his candidacy early last month at the urging of national Democrats such as Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who saw better odds for Orman in the race against Roberts.

Orel, a 57-year-old resident of Kansas City, Kan., and the father of a Brownback aide, argued that he wanted to vote for a Democrat in the November election. Orel's attorney argued that the language of the law -- that the party “shall” place a candidate on the ballot -- requires the party to run a candidate.

The court disagreed, saying it was voluntary for a constituent to run and, at this late date, the “practicalities” would also be called in to question.

Also, the court noted that Orel's failure to appear in court during a hearing Monday meant the judges had no evidence to consider. Nor did Orel’s attorney show that he had been harmed by the absence of a Democrat on the ticket, the court ruled.

Also Wednesday, a new USA Today poll showed Orman leading Roberts by five points and a 49 percent voter job disapproval for Roberts.

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