Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race

The Senate race in Kansas has become one of those wonderful, unpredictable goat rodeos that renders the modern Data Journalist useless. Nobody predicted that Sen. Pat Roberts would be beatable in a general election; he is now trailing independent candidate Greg Orman in polls, with a 29 percent approval rating. And as Dylan Scott reports, Secretary of State Kris Kobach has lost his battle to keep Democrat Chad Taylor on the November ballot. Taylor, seeing an opportunity for someone else to retire Roberts, attempted to pull out of the race; Kobach argued that the Democrat did not prove he was incapable of serving, and thus had to stay on the ballot. Justice Dan Biles was not convinced by Ed Greim, Kobach’s attorney, who wanted him to overlook other candidates whom other secretaries of state had allowed off the ballot with less justification than that offered by Taylor.

“He has discretion on which parts of the law he has to comply with?” Beier said. “Does the secretary have the discretion to decide which parts of the law must be compiled with and which can be dismissed?”

“He has discretion to say whether someone has declared that they are incapable or not,” Greim said.

“There are at least four or five letters of the letters you submitted without any kind of acknowledgement,” Beier said. “Is he also vested with discretion to ignore that aspect?”

And so on. The punchline, if you have to settle on one, is that Kobach himself has wounded his own re-election. The attorney and Bush administration veteran won an easy 2010 race for his office, promising to go after voter fraud. He helped Alabama write an anti-immigration bill that proved disastrous; he did not manage to round up many ACORN agents, given that the organization stopped existing while he was in office.

But he was in better shape before he started bailing out the Roberts tugboat. In the PPP poll that shows Roberts losing, voters disapprove of Kobach’s ballot trick by a 44-26 margin. Kobach leads Democratic opponent Jean Schondorf by a thin 43-42 margin – none of the other downballot Republicans are in any trouble at all. In another poll, conducted by Survey USA, Kobach trails by a 46-43 margin after previously being tied.