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Kan. Court: Democrats Can Abandon U.S. Senate Race

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 01, 2014 3:20 PM

Less than two weeks ago, the Kansas Supreme Court held that Chad Taylor, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, could drop out of the race over the objections of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican. Taylor, who filed his "I quit" paperwork at the deadline, did so in order to avoid splitting the anti-Republican vote with a popular independent candidate, Greg Orman.

Kansas' highest court, however, failed to address the issue of whether the Democratic Party could abandon the race altogether -- the statute does say, after all, that the party "shall" replace the candidate. It uses the word "shall" 13 times, in fact.

Quantity and severity of language wasn't enough to convince a state district court, however, which held today that no pinch hitter was necessary.

No Replacement Democrat Needed

The ruling by the Shawnee County District Court, handed down this afternoon, was clear: "When a candidate vacancy occurs after a primary, it is the judgment of the political party as to whether to challenge, or not, for the office by assessing both candidate availability and viability and, as well, its own party's best interests."

Hilariously, the appeal appears to the Republicans' own attempt at gamesmanship, countering the Democrats' drop-out tactic. The Washington Post notes that David Orel, who filed the petition to force the Democrats to name a substitute candidate, is reportedly a registered Democrat. He's also the father of a field director on Republican Gov. Sam Bownback's re-election campaign.

Conspiracy? Who cares, really, but it is interesting. It's also entirely possible that two family members don't share political views.

As for defining "shall," which at first glance seems pretty self-explanatory (and arguably mandatory), the court cited Black's Law Dictionary, which provides five definitions:

  1. "Has a duty to; more broadly, is required to";
  2. "Should (as often interpreted by the courts)";
  3. "May";
  4. "Will (as a future tense verb)"; and
  5. "Is entitled to."

It's far from the cut-and-dry definition Kobach and Orel were hoping for. The 21-page-opinion then dove in to legislative history, which we won't bore you with. The end result is this: No pinch-hitter is necessary for the Democratic Party.

An appeal, by the way, would be difficult: As the Post notes, the deadline for printing ballots was originally set for today, though there has been some word that it may be stretched to tomorrow. Either way, the clock is running out on the two parties' fun and games.

Republicans Trailing

If you're curious about how well the stop-dividing-so-somebody-can-conquer strategy is working, well, the Republican candidate is, in fact, behind in the polls. According to a USA Today/Suffolk University survey of 500 likely voters, independent Orman is beating Republican Roberts, 46 percent to 41 percent, with a 4.4-point margin of error, Politico reports.

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