First the GOP Guv, Now Kansas’s Senator in Electoral Peril

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KANSAS

Hard Right Henchman Reneges on Ballot Promise

"You dreamed you visited a land where Democrats ruled Kansas, Dorothy? Oh, my!"

“You dreamed you visited a land where Democrats ruled Kansas, Dorothy? Oh, my!”

First the GOP Guv, Now Kansas’s Senator in Electoral Peril

By Andrew Goutman

(September 11, 2014) The Newsletter once again visits Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback is not the only Republican fighting for his political life.

Until very recently, the US Senate race looked like a cakewalk for three-tem incumbent Pat Roberts (R-KS). His opposition was split between Democrat Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, and Independent Greg Orman, a wealthy businessman who has supported both Democrats and Republicans in his lifetime. Kansas had not elected a Democrat to the US Senate since 1932.

Democrat Chad Taylor Withdraws From Senate Race

The status quo was rudely interrupted when Democrat Taylor withdrew from the race. On September 3, 2014, Taylor filed papers to exit the race, leaving Kansas’s Senate contest a horserace between two very viable candidates. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, “Employees in [Secretary of State Kris] Kobach’s office accepted Taylor’s letter of withdrawal.”

Two days later, Secretary of State Kobach changed course and insisted that Taylor must remain on the ballot. Kobach, an anti-immigration activist, “birther” and card-carrying member of the GOP wing-nut brigade, cited a 1997 provision in Kansas election law that requires withdrawing candidates to detail why they are incapable of serving office.

On September 9, 2014, Taylor filed a legal challenge with the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse Kobach’s decision. Ballots must be printed by September 18. There is no certainty that the court will convene to hear the case.

Even with the ballot uncertainty, Sen. Roberts already has his hands full. According to the latest Daily Kos elections digest, the numbers seem to indicate that Kansans already regard this as a two-man race:

Greg Orman (I): 37%
Pat Roberts (R): 36%
Chad Taylor (D): 10%
Randall Batson (L): 6%
Undecided: 11%

Before Taylor withdrew, the polling numbers were Roberts-37%, Taylor-32, Orman-20 and Batson-4.

The Players

Pat Roberts

Kansans, like most good people, want their elected officials to actually be present in their state or locale. It makes problem-solving a whole lot easier. Pat Roberts says he’s “damn proud” to live in Dodge City, Kansas. He rents a Lazy-Boy there in a donor’s home, and gets there “about seven times a year”…”whenever he has a campaign opponent.” After a bruising Republican primary, Roberts’ campaign manager let slip that “he went back home for two or three days to rest.” Back home is Northern Virginia…Roberts’ real home.

Greg Orman of Kansas

Greg Orman of Kansas

For those of us concerned about the US Senate majority after the mid-term elections, we won’t get much help from Independent Greg Orman. “If one party is clearly in the majority,” he told Politico, “then I think it makes the most sense for the state of Kansas for me to caucus with the majority.” There is a paper trail of his loyalties. He contributed $6,900 to Barak Obama’s first presidential campaign. In 2009, he sent a check for $9,000 to the Kansas Democratic Party. On the other hand, Orman supported Republican Scott Brown in the special election for US Senate in Massachusetts in 2010. I suppose there’s a reason they call it “independent.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach

Kobach achieved his notoriety by helping craft the infamous (anti-) immigration law–SB 1070–in Arizona that passed in 2010. The right-wing credentials he earned via SB 1070 was enough to propel him into elected office in the Republican wave of 2010.

Kobach joined the George W. Bush administration right around 9/11, and labored under Attorney General John Ashcroft to further the conservative notion that state and local officials had “inherent authority” to enforce federal immigration laws. As Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach, nicknamed “psy-kobach” by his critics, was the driving force behind the state’s new restrictive voter ID laws (what a surprise).

But here’s the third leg of a sweet trifecta. Kobach is up for reelection in November, and the Daily Kos polling should be instructive to any politician prone to swing to ideological extremes:

Jean Schodorg (D) 46%
Kris Kobach (R) 43%
Undecided 11%

Dorothy, you’re a doll.

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