Taylor withdraws from U.S. Senate race

Chad Taylor's letter to the Kansas Secretary of State's office withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race.

Democrat Chad Taylor officially withdrew from the U.S. Senate race in Kansas today.

“After much consideration and prolonged discussion with my supporters, my staff, and party leadership at every level, I have decided to end my campaign for the United States Senate,” Taylor said in a written statement.

“I have great love for the state of Kansas and the people that live here. I will continue to work in their best interest every day, but effective today, my campaign is terminated,” he said.

As recently as last week, however, Jason Perkey, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said the party was solidly behind Taylor, despite suggestions that he should drop out of the race in favor of independent candidate Greg Orman.

“Chad Taylor is the Kansas Democratic Party’s nominee; Kansas Democrats made that decision three weeks ago in our primary,” Perkey told the Journal-World last week.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office confirmed that Taylor submitted a notarized letter shortly after 4 p.m. saying he is withdrawing his nomination effective immediately and asking that his name be removed from the Nov. 4 ballot.

Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, narrowly won the Democratic nomination in the Aug. 5 primary, edging out Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner, 53-47 percent.

Wiesner said late Wednesday that he was shocked to learn from a reporter that Taylor had withdrawn, and indicated he would still be interested in accepting the nomination if it were offered to him.

“I’d definitely have an interest,” Wiesner said in a phone interview. “I’d have to think about it. I obviously right now … nobody’s called me.”

Calls to the state Democratic Party headquarters were not immediately returned Wednesday evening and it was unclear how, or whether, the party would replace Taylor on the ballot.

According to a calendar on the Secretary of State’s website, Friday, Sept. 5, is the day for the Secretary of State to send county election officers a certified list of candidates for publication.

National implications

Nationally, Republicans have been hoping to regain control of the U.S. Senate this year. They need a net gain of six seats to accomplish that, but two recent polls have both indicated that Roberts may be vulnerable this year.

The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling and the independent firm SurveyUSA both found Roberts polling below 40 percent, with Taylor and Orman splitting about 50 percent of the vote.

But even though Taylor has consistently been slightly ahead of Orman in those polls, Orman has picked up some significant endorsements, including one earlier Wednesday from a group of about 70 former Republican state legislators.

That group, Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, was founded about two years ago by former Rep. Jim Yonally and former Senate President Dick Bond, both of Overland Park.

At a Statehouse news conference, members of the group said they believe Orman is better able bridge the divide in Washington between “extremists on both ends.”

“The extremists are running this state. The extremists are running the national (government) and I have been a centrist my entire life,” said former Sen. Tim Owens, of Overland Park, a member of the group.

Orman, however, has not said which party he will align with if he is elected to the Senate, which means even if he were to beat Roberts, Republicans may not lose a member of their caucus. Orman has said he will caucus with whichever party has a majority. But he is also counting the possibility that he could become a tie breaker in the Senate.

“If I get elected, there is a fair chance that neither party in Washington will have a majority,” Orman said. “And if neither party has a majority in Washington, I think that’s a great opportunity for the state of Kansas to define the agenda in the Senate.”

Orman, a Johnson County businessman and former partner in a venture capital firm, was briefly a Democratic candidate for the same Senate seat in 2008. But he withdrew only two months after officially entering the race, citing unspecified differences he had with supporters.

According to campaign finance reports, Orman has been a prolific donor to other federal candidates from both political parties over the years, ranging from presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, to former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri on the Republican side.

His $2,000 donation to Akin, a staunch opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, was made in 2006, six years before Akin’s now-infamous statement that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Orman’s campaign did not respond to questions about that donation. But members of Traditional Republicans for Common Sense said they believe he is “fiscally conservative and socially tolerant.”

“I believe that Greg Orman is that kind of a person,” said Rochelle Chronister, a former state representative from Neodesha and a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. “He is a pragmatist; he is a problem solver; and his decision to run was mainly based on the fact that he believes there should be a centrist kind of agreement.”

Reaction to the withdrawal

Hours later, Orman said he was surprised by Taylor’s withdrawal.

“This is certainly an unexpected turn of events,” he said in a statement late Wednesday about Taylor’s withdrawal. “Chad Taylor is a committed public servant. He ran an honorable campaign and worked hard, and I wish him and his family well.”

Roberts’ campaign spokesman, Leroy Towns, issued a statement alleging Taylor’s decision was part of a “corrupt bargain” between Orman and national Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that “disenfranchises Kansas Democrats.”

“It makes clear what has been obvious from the start: Orman is the choice of liberal Democrats and he can no longer hide behind an independent smokescreen,” Towns said.