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Entries from blogs tagged with “2014”

As court ponders ballot case, polls show why it matters

Some number of people in Kansas — it's not really clear how many — are eagerly awaiting a decision from the Shawnee County District Court about whether Democrats will be required to name a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

In the meantime, a new look at the polls in that race shows why it matters.

A group of Kansas academics who take turns writing op-ed pieces under the heading Insight Kansas gathered all of the "independent, scientific, noncandidate-paid-for" polls in the major races, averaged them and came up with this:

With Democrat Chad Taylor on the ballot, independent candidate Greg Orman leads Republican Pat Roberts by an average 1.25 percentage points. That's pretty close to being a statistical dead heat.

That's the average of four polls, all taken after Taylor dropped out of the race. And two of those polls taken in mid-September — by Rasmussen Reports and Fox News — showed Roberts ahead by 1 and 2 points respectively.

But take Taylor off the ballot and ask people to choose between Roberts and Orman alone, and Orman's lead expands to an average 7.75 points.

Bob Beatty, a political science professor and part of the Insight Kansas group, said it's clear that when Taylor dropped out of the race in early September, the bulk of his support went to Orman. And if Taylor, or any other Democrat, is put back on the ballot, it takes support away from Orman.

"Because there's always going to be Republicans and Democrats who vote the party line," Beatty said. "If any Democrat is on that ballot, it takes away some votes from Orman."

That's precisely what Republicans stand to gain in the lawsuit pending in Topeka, and it shows pretty clearly why the Democratic Party has no particular interest in trying to put someone else on the ballot.

Beatty said the academics at Insight Kansas will continue putting out the polling averages each week between now and Election Day, looking mainly at the five most recent polls in each race. Here's what they're showing in the other major races right now:

Governor: Democrat Paul Davis leads Republican Gov. Sam Brownback by an average of 5.4 percentage points. "The amazing thing there is how consistent it's been since June," Beatty said. "They all show Davis with a 4 to 7 point lead."

Secretary of State: Republican incumbent Kris Kobach has a razor-thin lead of 1.8 points over Democrat Jean Schodorf, a former Republican state senator. In February, the first major poll, by Public Policy Polling, showed Kobach with a 7-point lead. But that's been narrowing in more recent surveys. Still, of the eight polls conducted in that race, only one has shown Schodorf with any kind of lead. That was SurveyUSA poll in early September that had her up by 3 points.

In addition to Beatty, Insight Kansas includes political science professors Burdett Loomis at Kansas University; Mark Peterson at Washburn University; Chapman Rackaway at Fort Hays State University; Michael Smith at Emporia State University; and Ed Flentje at Wichita State University.

Reply 4 comments from Merrill Melinda Henderson Lisa Rasor

Former ambassador calls Roberts ‘congenital liar’ complicit in torture scandal

While Sen. Pat Roberts is hosting national Republican figures to help out in his re-election campaign, another national figure is weighing in on the race, accusing the Kansas senator of being a “congenital liar” who was complicit in allowing U.S. intelligence agencies to engage in torture.

Joseph C. Wilson, the husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame and a key figure in the intelligence reports used to justify the war in Iraq, laid out those charges Sunday in a blog post on HuffingtonPost.com. In it, he accuses Roberts of trying to deceive Kansas voters about his residency in the state. But he says Roberts engaged in an even bigger deception when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the early years of the war in Iraq.

“For years, he was nothing more than (Vice President) Dick Cheney's poodle,” Wilson wrote. “He protected those elements of the CIA following the Bush-Cheney orders on torture, as the soon-to-be published Senate torture report under Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) will make clear. It was Roberts who let it all happen.”

According to recent published reports the Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein now chairs, has produced a 6,000-page report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" since the attacks of 9/11. The report has been submitted for declassifcation but not yet released to the public.

Wilson was a retired ambassador when he was sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate suspicions that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium yellowcake as part of a nuclear weapons program.

Despite the fact that he found no evidence of any such attempt, President George W. Bush later asserted that he had, and mentioned it in his 2003 State of the Union address as part of his justification for launching a war to overthrow the Iraqi dictator.

The misrepresentation of Wilson's report was made public when Wilson wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times in July that year titled “What I didn't find in Africa.” Soon after publication of that article, Bush administration officials leaked to the press that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA.

Roberts was a member of the Intelligence Committee, which has oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies, and in January 2003 he became chairman of that panel.

The Intelligence Committee conducted a lengthy investigation into the use of intelligence leading up to the war, and Roberts was frequently accused of dragging his feet on that investigation. The final report, accusing the Bush administration of deliberately misusing intelligence to justify the war, was not published until 2008, after Roberts had left the committee.

The Phase I report, released in December 2003, examined the intelligence community's pre-war assessment that Iraq was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. It found, among other things, that before Wilson's trip, it was reasonable to believe that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium.

But Roberts wrote a separate “Additional Views” report suggesting that it was Wilson's wife who recommended he be sent to Niger, and that Wilson's public statements were not based on his own actual knowledge but, rather, media reports he had read after the fact — a charge that Wilson called “libelous.”

“Both accusations were bald lies, as I pointed out in a letter to the committee and in my book 'The Politics of Truth,'” Wilson wrote Sunday.

“Roberts, who did his best to cover up serious crimes against national security was the single worst Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its history — the most actively incompetent and disgraceful,” he wrote.

The Roberts campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wilson's article.

Reply 12 comments from Jim Slade Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Scottburkhart Merrill Fred_mertz Bob Smith Joe Blackford II James Howlette William Weissbeck

Roberts once supported firearms background checks

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is about to get some help from the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund, which endorsed him for re-election earlier this month, based in part on his opposition to requiring background checks for all gun sales.

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both reported in recent days that the NRA's political arm is about to buy $100,000 worth of air time in Wichita and Topeka supporting Roberts, who is now in a tight race against independent challenger Greg Orman.

"Roberts has stood up to the Obama-Bloomberg gun control agenda, including their so-called 'universal' background check system that would criminalize the private transfer of a firearm between life-long friends and many family members," the NRA said in its endorsement.

When Roberts first ran for the Senate in 1996, he was a vocal supporter of instant background checks to prevent criminals from buying firearms.

"We need tougher penalties for criminals," Roberts told the Journal-World during that campaign. "Second, we have the technology for an instant background check of those buying weapons. We need to use that."

He also gave a similar answer when asked about gun control during a televised debate on public radio and TV, which was later rebroadcast on C-SPAN. (View the clip here.)

Arguably, the question about background checks has changed subtly since the early 1990s, when gun control was a major political issue in the wake of rising gang-related crime in major cities in the United States. Then, background checks were considered the more moderate alternative to other gun-related proposals.

In 1993, then-Rep. Roberts voted for a bill requiring instant background checks for gun sales. That was intended to replace the mandatory five-day waiting period, which had been the law before. A year later, Roberts voted against one of President Bill Clinton's major initiatives, to ban certain types of assault weapons. The bill passed anyway and was signed into law.

By 1996, as Clinton was facing re-election, the NRA made repeal of the assault weapon ban a top priority. Roberts voted in favor of that bill, although it was a largely symbolic vote because Clinton had vowed to veto it. But in interviews at the time, he said he supported instant background checks.

"We're very close to the technology, and (Sen.) Bob Dole has urged this, as have others, that you can walk into a gun shop, put your thumb print down and immediately there would be a check and you would deny those firearms of all types to the convicted felon or somebody who shouldn't have a gun."

The assault weapon ban remained in place until 2004, when it was allowed to expire. Meanwhile, gun control advocates criticized the law requiring background checks because it only applied to sales by licensed firearms dealers. It does not apply to private sales between individuals, which critics refer to as the "gun show loophole."

Last year, President Barack Obama proposed extending the requirement for background checks to all gun purchases, including those between private individuals. But the context of that debate is now much different, especially after gun rights advocates won a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the 2nd amendment right to bear arms is an individual right, not a collective right.

Now, background checks are no longer the moderate alternative to more aggressive gun control. They are the more aggressive form of gun control, compared to the gun rights that advocates have won in court.

But as far back as 1999, according to an article in the Hays Daily News, Roberts suggested expanding background checks to pawn shops and gun shows. That comment was in response to a question about a mass school shooting in Littleton, Colo., a few months earlier.

When asked about Roberts' earlier positions, his campaign manager Corry Bliss said there has been no change.

"Pat Roberts has been a strong advocate of the second amendment, and has continually received an A rating from the NRA," Bliss said in an email. "Senator Roberts has always supported an instantaneous background check — to keep guns from felons. His position is clear — and consistent."

For his part, Orman has said he supports gun rights and owns two handguns himself. But he supports expanding background checks to include private gun sales. A statement on his website reads:

Both times that I bought a handgun, I was required to go through a mandatory background check to ensure that I was a U.S. citizen who hadn’t been convicted of domestic violence, subject to a restraining order for harassing, stalking, or threatening behavior, incarcerated for longer than a year, dishonorably discharged from the military, or determined to be mentally defective. Over 700,000 people who met the description above have been prevented from buying firearms at licensed dealers since the background check requirements went into effect.

The idea that those 700,000 people could simply head to a gun show and buy a firearm without the same background scrutiny doesn’t make sense to me.

Reply 4 comments from James Howlette Paul R.  Getto Fred_mertz Charlie Dominguez Bob Smith

Schmidt, seeking to file brief in Senate ballot lawsuit, concedes law not entirely clear

Attorney General Derek Schmidt sought permission Thursday to file a friend of the court brief in the ongoing litigation over naming a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kansas in a race that could determine which party controls the upper chamber of Congress next year.

In a motion filed in Shawnee County District Court, Schmidt says the court should direct the Kansas Democratic Party to name another candidate, although he concedes the law is not entirely clear on that point.

That's just the latest chapter of a bizarre political drama in which Democrats are trying desperately not to have a candidate on the ballot, even though one was nominated in a competitive primary, and Republicans are pulling out all the stops to make sure Democrats do have a candidate.

What's prompting all of that counter-intuitive behavior is the surprisingly strong candidacy of Greg Orman, a wealthy Johnson County businessman who, according to recent polls, has a slim lead over three-term incumbent Republican Pat Roberts, who is 78.

Republicans need a net gain of at least six seats to take control of the Senate, and many analysts gave the GOP favorable odds of pulling that off. But if Roberts loses in Kansas, long considered a GOP stronghold, that task would become much more difficult.

On Sept. 18, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered that Democrat Chad Taylor, who had won the Democratic primary, must be allowed to withdraw his name on the ballot, saying he fulfilled the requirements of the statute for doing so. It is widely believed, although not acknowledged, that the national Democratic Party had urged Taylor to withdraw, believing Orman has a better chance of defeating Roberts on his own.

But the court did not address the question of whether the Kansas Democratic Party must name a new candidate.

Minutes after the Supreme Court decision was announced, David Orel, a registered Democrat whose son reportedly works on Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's campaign, filed a petition seeking an order for the party to name a new candidate. But the Supreme Court declined to hear that petition, saying there were facts at issue that must be heard at the trial court level.

At issue is K.S.A. 25-3905(a) which says, "When a vacancy occurs after a primary election in a party candidacy, such vacancy shall be filled by the party committee of the congressional district, county or state, as the case may be ..." (emphasis added).

The operative word there being "shall," which sounds like something that is mandatory. But in his brief, Schmidt acknowledges that sometimes it's mandatory, and sometimes it's merely "directory." In either case, he also acknowledges that the law provides no penalty for disobeying the law.

Still, Schmidt argues that in this case it seems clear that when the law was written in 1908, the Legislature meant for it to be mandatory.

The case was referred to the Shawnee County District Court, where a three-judge panel has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Monday.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican, has also filed a motion to intervene in the case in support of Orel's motion.

Reply 3 comments from Lisa Rasor Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Stuart Sweeney

Poll shows governor’s race tightening; Dole stumping for Roberts

The polling firm Rasmussen Reports on Monday released details of its latest poll that appears to show the Kansas governor's race tightening, but which raises as many questions as it answers.

Their latest poll, conducted Sept. 16-17, shows Democrat Paul Davis leading by four points, 47-43 percent over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. That's significantly closer than Rasmussen's earlier poll in August which showed Davis up by 10 points.

It also shows a closer race than either of the other two recent public polls in the governor's race. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Davis up by 6 points in mid-September, while SurveyUSA showed Davis ahead by 7 points earlier in the month.

Buried within the top line numbers are a few details that might explain why the race is tightening – or at least why the Rasmussen polls show that it is.

Perhaps the most intriguing statistic, and the most puzzling, is the breakdown by race.

Among non-white voters, Davis held a 64-25 percent advantage over Brownback in August. That wasn't especially surprising for a Democrat, given the way blacks and Hispanics have voted in recent national elections. In 2012, for instance, exit polling showed Barack Obama won 93 percent of the African-American vote and 73 percent of the Hispanic vote.

But September, according to Rasmussen, those numbers for Brownback and Davis have virtually flipped. The new poll shows Brownback leading among non-whites, 51-36 percent. That's a 26-point swing in Brownback's favor in the course of one month.

No other public poll has showed anything similar to that.

One explanation could be a statistical error in sampling. While the overall poll of 750 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, the margin within small sub-groups is higher because of their comparatively small sample size.

Among all voters, the Rasmussen poll shows that more people now know who Paul Davis is, no doubt the result of increased media attention and increased advertising on both sides including negative ads put out by the Brownback campaign.

While Davis' favorability rating, at 45 percent, is about the same as last month, his unfavorable rating has climbed eight points, to 33 percent.

In August, nearly one-fifth of those surveyed (19 percent) said they had never heard of Paul Davis. Today, his anonymity factor is down to 12 percent.

Rasmussen also asked people which candidate they trust more to deal with different types of issues. Last month, Davis led in every category - spending; taxes; social issues; and ethics and corruption. Davis had a 10-point advantage over Brownback in trust to deal with social issues.

This month, the gap on social issues has narrowed to just four points (42-38 percent), and Brownback now scores even with Davis on trust to deal with government spending: 40 percent each.

Dole, McCain stumping for Roberts

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is bringing in the big bats this week to give his sluggish campaign an extra boost, including former Sen. Bob Dole and former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

Dole, the 91-year-old retired senator who has spent a lot of time back in Kansas in recent months, is scheduled to appear Monday night with Roberts for a town hall meeting in Dodge City. On Tuesday, he'll be at Roberts events in Kinsley and Greensburg.

Dole served in the Senate from 1969 through 1996, when he stepped down to run for president. That same year, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum also retired. Roberts was elected to Kassebaum's old seat, and Sam Brownback won a special election to fill the remainder of Dole's term.

McCain, R-Ariz., is scheduled to appear for a campaign event at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Roberts' Johnson County campaign headquarters, 12651 Metcalf Ave., in Overland Park.

Both Dole and McCain won Kansas but lost to Democrats in their respective presidential bids: Dole to Bill Clinton in 1996; McCain to Barack Obama in 2008.

Finally, on Thursday, the Roberts campaign says only that there will be a “special guest” at a campaign event in Independence. The event is an 8 a.m. pancake breakfast at the Independence Historical Museum and Arts Center.

Reply 1 comment from Frank McGuinness Floyd Craig

Taylor may still be critical to U.S. Senate race

Although Democrat Chad Taylor has dropped out of the race and terminated his own campaign, he still may be a deciding factor in the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Kansas.

A new Fox News poll released Thursday shows that when voters are asked about the preference among all four named candidates in the race, Roberts has a narrow lead, 40-38 percent, over independent candidate Greg Orman, with Taylor still picking up 11 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson showed up at only 2 percent, with 8 percent still undecided.

But as of this afternoon, the Kansas Supreme Court is still trying to decide whether Taylor's name should remain on the ballot. When asked to choose among the two main candidates still actively campaigning, the Fox News poll shows Orman ahead, 48-42 percent.

The poll was conducted jointly by Anderson Robbins Research, a Democratic firm, and Shaw & Company Research, a Republican polling company. The survey of 604 likely voters included both land line and cellphone respondents and claimed a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

For Roberts, those numbers are slightly higher than other recent polls that have shown him getting 34-36 percent of the vote, depending on which candidates are included in the question.

The Kansas Senate race has generated the kind of national attention that is unusual in Kansas, in part because of the odd series of events surrounding Taylor's candidacy, but also because it could greatly affect the Republican Party's chances of taking control of the Senate.

Taylor won a contested primary Aug. 5 and secured the Democratic nomination. But with little fundraising success, and polls suggesting Roberts could be vulnerable this year, other Democrats reportedly pressured him to leave the race to make a clearer path for Orman, a wealthy businessman who is able to fund much of his own campaign.

On Sept. 3, Taylor filed a letter of withdrawal with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. But Kobach has refused to accept the withdrawal, arguing that Kansas law requires the letter to contain a declaration that he would be incapable of holding the office if elected.

That's the issue now pending before the Supreme Court.

Other polls have also suggested that leaving Taylor's name on the ballot could greatly influence the race, despite the fact that he has said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that he will not accept the job if elected.

A survey earlier this week by Public Policy Polling showed Orman ahead in the race, with or without Taylor on the ballot. But his margin was significantly wider in a hypothetical two-person race (46-36 percent) than in a four-person race that includes Taylor and Batson (41-34 percent over Roberts, with Taylor still getting 6 percent and Batson polling at 4 percent).

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Poll: Orman leads, with or without Taylor on the ballot

A new poll out today shows Republican Sen. Pat Roberts trailing in his bid for a fourth term, with or without Democrat Chad Taylor's name on the ballot.

The survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in North Carolina, shows that in a head-to-head contest, independent candidate Greg Orman leads Roberts by 10 points, 46-36 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

But even if Taylor's name is included, Orman still leads the race by seven points, 41-34 percent, with Taylor getting 6 percent and Libertarian candidate Randall Batson polling at 4 percent.

The poll was released the same day the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Taylor withdrawal case. Taylor filed a notice Sept. 3 with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach seeking to remove his name from the ballot, but Kobach has refused to do so, arguing that Taylor's letter did not meet the requirements of state law.

Many analysts have suggested that Taylor's withdrawal would benefit Orman's chances of unseating Roberts.

The survey of 1,328 likely voters was conducted over the past weekend and reported a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

PPP did not tell respondents that Taylor is attempting to withdraw before asking the questions about the Senate race. But in subsequent questions in which they were informed, 63 percent said they believe Taylor should be removed from the ballot while 21 percent said he should not.

The only other recent public poll in the race, conducted by SurveyUSA in early September, showed Orman and Roberts virtually tied, 37-36 percent.

PPP is a private polling firm that works exclusively for Democratic candidates. However, its public polls are not conducted on behalf of any candidate and serve essentially as a marketing tool to promote the company and demonstrate the accuracy of its methodology.

An analysis by former New York Times columnist Nate Silver found that during the 2012 presidential campaign, PPP put 71 polls in the field and, when compared with actual election results, had a standard error of 2.7 percentage points, with a 1.6 point bias in favor of Republicans.

SurveyUSA rated slightly better. Out of 17 polls, it had a standard error of 2.2 percentage points, with a 0.5 point bias in favor of Republicans.

Other results from the latest PPP survey:

• In the governor's race, Democrat Paul Davis leads Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, 42-38 percent. That's narrower than the last SurveyUSA poll, which had Davis up 47-40 percent.

• For secretary of state, incumbent Republican Kris Kobach is running at 43 percent, making him virtually tied with Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf at 42 percent. Forty-four percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way Kobach has handled the Chad Taylor withdrawal case.

• For attorney general, Republican Derek Schmidt appears to be coasting to re-election as he leads Democratic challenger A.J. Kotich, 50-27 percent.

Reply 10 comments from Chuck Frank Merrill Fred St. Aubyn Jason Randall Fred Whitehead Jr. Lisa Rasor James Howlette Scott Quenette Clark Coan

Ballot law was meant to prevent swapping candidates

Democrat Chad Taylor's attempt to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race is not without precedent in Kansas, and at least one former legislator who helped rewrite the law says what he is attempting to do is precisely what Kansas lawmakers tried to prevent when they changed the state's ballot law in 1997.

Deena Horst, a Republican from Salina who now serves on the Kansas State Board of Education, served in the Kansas House in 1997 and helped draft the language that the Kansas Supreme Court is now being asked to interpret.

At issue is a law that says if candidates have been nominated for a state or federal office and later want to withdraw from the race, they must declare that, if elected, they would be incapable of fulfilling the duties of that office.

“Although it may not clearly state such, it was the original intent than an individual withdrawing would have to show why he or she could not serve,” Horst recalled. “It was believed that by having to declare why he or she was unable to serve, a candidate would not just remove their name from the ballot without a reason that voters would accept, and that party manipulation of the electorate was less likely to take place.”

Taylor won a contested primary for the U.S. Senate nomination. But he has since terminated his campaign and asked that his name be taken off the ballot. However, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has refused to honor that request, saying Taylor did not declare that, if elected, he would be unable to serve.

Taylor is now asking the Kansas Supreme Court to intervene. Oral arguments will be heard starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, with a ruling expected before the end of the week, which is the deadline for printing ballots to be sent to military and overseas voters.

Although he has not publicly stated why he wants to withdraw, most observers say doing so would help the better-funded independent candidate Greg Orman in his quest to unseat three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

But Horst, as well as Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, who also was in the Legislature at that time, said the change followed the 1996 campaign in which a slightly different practice had become commonplace in Kansas.

That involved putting up “place-holder” candidates to fill a spot on the ballot until the filing deadline, after which party leaders would then name the real candidate they wanted to run.

“That was pretty common practice, really by both parties as I recall,” Hensley said. “But I think in the '96 campaign it occurred more than it previously had.”

“We would try to recruit somebody for the House or the Senate, and we couldn't get a person to pull the trigger before the filing deadline, so we would get someone to file and hold that seat,” Hensley said. “Then you had to have a meeting of the precinct people in that particular district to replace the place-holder.”

Horst agreed that the practice of naming place-holders was what prompted lawmakers to consider changing the law. Before the change, candidates could withdraw from the ballot for virtually any reason. But in the course of discussing that change, she said, lawmakers envisioned the possibility of what Taylor is now trying to accomplish.

“Although it had not happened to that point, at least to our knowledge, we also realized that such an open-ended withdrawal policy could be used for the purpose of defeating an incumbent or a candidate of a party which held the larger number of voters,” Horst said. “Part of our discussion, as I recall, was that such a feat could be accomplished by one party lending assistance to a lesser party candidate – Libertarian, Reform, etc. — or unaffiliated candidate by the withdrawal of the individual selected in the primary by the registered voters of that party.”

“Since that type of thing hadn't happened previously, many of us thought such a potential to be far-fetched, that Kansans were more ethical than that,” Horst said.

Taylor, the current Shawnee County District Attorney, is claiming that the law doesn't require him to state the nature of his inability to hold the office of U.S. Senator, only that he make the declaration. He also says he effectively made that declaration when he asked to withdraw, “pursuant to” the statute in question, and any interpretation of the statute that says he must remain on the ballot would be unconstitutional.

But Kobach says that's not good enough and that Taylor's name should remain on the ballot.

Regardless of how the court rules, Hensley said the Legislature needs to revisit that law.

“It's poorly worded,” Hensley said. “It's bad public policy and we need to change it. But I don't have any real good ideas about how to do that yet.”

Reply 7 comments from Greg Cooper Merrill Eric MacDonald Jake Esau James Howlette Scottburkhart Fred_mertz

Jenkins, Wakefield agree on EPA water regulations

Rep. Lynn Jenkins touted her support Friday for a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing proposed new clean water regulations that some say would extend federal regulation over small creeks, drainage ditches and farm ponds.

She also called on her Democratic opponent, Margie Wakefield, to take a stand on those regulations, which have become a hot-button issue in both state and federal elections this year.

H.R. 5078, known as the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, would also require the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consult with state and local officials to develop recommendations for new regulations that would limit the scope of waters covered under the Clean Water Act.

It passed the Republican-controlled House on Monday by a vote of 262-152. Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, including Lawrence, and the other three members of the Kansas House delegation voted for the bill.

"I have heard from Eastern Kansans time and again on how this rule will negatively impact landowners, farmers and ranchers. I was pleased, this week, to work and pass sensible, bipartisan legislation to block the Obama Administration from implementing this rule," Jenkins said.

Jenkins' campaign manager Lee Modesitt added that so far Wakefield has staked out few positions on key issues in the race. "The question is simple: would Margie Wakefield have supported H.R. 5078 or would she have stood with her liberal Washington allies like the Sierra Club and President Obama, who oppose this bill," he said.

The statement was a rare flash point in a congressional race that has been relatively quiet in recent weeks while most election news has focused on the contentious races for governor and U.S. Senate.

But Wakefield responded quickly by saying that she agreed with the purpose of the bill and would have voted for it if she were in Congress today.

"While much of the language of this bill is clearly an attempt to fan the flames of distrust in Washington, the thrust of its impact is to include the State of Kansas in the development and implementation of any new regulations. I support that," Wakefield said.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has also criticized the proposed new regulations and has vowed to fight them at the state level if he wins a second term.

The proposed regulations deal with the portion of the 1972 Clean Water Act that is meant to protect "Waters of the United States." That includes rivers and streams that cross state borders, as well as their tributaries. Farmers and ranchers, however, argue that extending federal clean water standards to the smallest upstream tributaries would interfere with their ability to apply farm chemicals or manage herds.

But EPA officials have said the criticisms, which are not limited to Kansas, have been greatly exaggerated.

"The Clean Water Act was passed by Congress to protect our nation’s water bodies from pollution," EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds said in a blog post Aug. 28. "This law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights, and our proposal does not do anything to change that. The idea that EPA can use the Clean Water Act to execute a land grab or intrude on private property rights is simply false."

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Taylor asks Supreme Court to keep his name off ballot

Democrat Chad Taylor is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to step in and prevent his name from appearing on the Nov. 4 ballot for the U.S. Senate.

Taylor filed the petition Thursday, asking for an order preventing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach from placing his name on the ballot.

"Petitioner does not want to be a candidate for United States Senate in the 2014 election," the motion stated. "He does not want the ballot for that election to associate him with that race or the Democratic Party for purposes of that race, because that association is likely to cause confusion among Kansas voters, who have a right to cast their votes free from misleading ballot information that would lead any reasonable person to believe that Petitioner was still in the race."

Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, won the Aug. 5 Democratic primary election over Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner. But last week, without stating a specific reason, he filed a request with Kobach's office, asking that his name be taken off the ballot.

Polls had shown Taylor running second in the race behind incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. But Taylor had had difficulty raising money compared with the better-financed independent candidate Greg Orman. Moreover, at least one poll had shown that in a hypothetical head-to-head race, Orman stood a better chance of unseating Roberts than Taylor did.

Taylor's withdrawal came shortly after he had consulted with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has denied that she explicitly urged him to leave the race, but has said she discussed the situation with him.

Taylor filed his request for withdrawal shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, less than an hour before the deadline for making the request.

But the next day, after the deadline had expired, Kobach announced he would not accept Taylor's request, citing a 1997 law that says candidates who have been nominated for an office may only be taken off the ballot if they have died, or if they declare that if elected they would be incapable of fulfilling the duties of the office.

In his motion to the Supreme Court, Taylor again did not specify a reason for withdrawing from the race. But he argued that he complied with the law by stating in his letter that the request was being made "pursuant" to the statute, and therefore was incorporating into his request the requirements of that statute.

"Thus, the plain language of the statute does not require the candidate to submit to the Secretary of State a reason for withdrawal or anything other than a notarized request in writing that the candidate's name be withdrawn," the petition stated.

He also argues that Kobach is not a neutral party in the case because he has endorsed Roberts in the senate race, and he suggests Kobach wants to keep Taylor's name on the ballot to give an advantage to Roberts.

State GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold called Taylor’s action “selfish” and said the circumstances surrounding his withdrawal “stink of secret deals.”

It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether, if the court grants Taylor's motion, the Kansas Democratic Party would be required to name another candidate in his place. The deadline for finalizing the ballot is Sept. 18.

Reply 2 comments from Steve King Fred_mertz

Poll shows dead heat in U.S. Senate race

A new poll sponsored by KSN-TV in Wichita shows a statistical dead heat in the U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and independent challenger Greg Orman.

According to a report on the station's website, the latest SurveyUSA poll shows Orman at 37 percent; Roberts at 36 percent; and Democrat Chad Taylor, who announced his withdrawal from the race last week, still pulling in 10 percent. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson showed up at 6 percent, with 11 percent saying they are undecided.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

"Kansans are sick and tired of the partisan dysfunction in Washington, and Greg’s focus on problem solving continues to attract support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike,” Orman's campaign manager Jim Jonas said in a statement Monday.

The numbers suggest Orman has picked up some of Taylor's support, but not yet enough to win the race. An earlier poll in late August showed Roberts in almost the same position with 37 percent, followed by Taylor at 32 percent and Orman at 20 percent.

KSN reported that the survey found 74 percent of voters were aware that Taylor had withdrawn from the race, but only 54 percent knew that Secretary of State Kris Kobach had refused to take his name off the ballot.

Roberts' campaign staff said it showed Orman is not gaining momentum.

"This poll is almost identical to the poll results from the August 20th KSN poll, despite the fact that Mr. Taylor has dropped out," campaign manager Corry Bliss said. "However, in the interim weeks Greg Orman has spent over $500,000 in campaign ads, and the Roberts Campaign has yet (to) spend any money on TV, mail or radio in the general election. The impact of Mr. Orman's significant spending would seem to be non-existent."

The KSN-SurveyUSA poll also showed Democrat Jean Schodorf gaining a slight lead, 46-43 percent, in the race for Secretary of State over Kobach, with 11 percent of those surveyed still undecided.

In the race for governor, the KSN-SurveyUSA poll showed Democrat Paul Davis ahead of incumbent Republican Sam Brownback, 47-40 percent, with 7 percent still undecided. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from the earlier poll in late August.

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Orman regrets giving to Akin as other donations come under scrutiny

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman said Saturday that he regrets having contributed money in 2006 to Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican who later said that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.

"I had a friend call me and ask me to support a congressman who was on the Armed Services Committee, good on veterans issues, good on armed services issues, and I made a donation," Orman told reporters after Saturday's Kansas State Fair debate against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. "Obviously I was horrified by the statements he made and wish that were something I could take back, but I couldn't."

According to campaign finance records, Orman contributed $2,000 to Akin's 2006 campaign for the U.S. House. Akin made his "legitimate rape" comment during a television interview in 2012 when he was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri against Democrat Claire McCaskill.

Ironically, it's McCaskill who may have played the most pivotal role in helping Orman this year by counseling the Democratic candidate Chad Taylor just before he dropped out of the race.

Orman's past contributions have come under scrutiny, in part because they constitute the only public records that indicate his political leanings. Orman has never held elected office, although he was briefly a Democratic candidate for the same Senate seat the last time it was up for election in 2008.

During Saturday's debate, Roberts continually hammered Orman for his previous contributions to Democrats, most notably Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, whom Roberts mentioned in response to nearly every question.

In 2007, Orman donated $1,000 to Reid's re-election campaign. That same year, he also gave $4,600 each to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

During the debate, Orman said he had previously been registered with both parties, and had given money to candidates from both parties, but had been disappointed by both. He noted that one of his last partisan contributions, in 2010, was $2,000 to Republican Scott Brown's Senate campaign in Massachusetts.

That year he also gave money to Bill Halter, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in Arkansas.

But Roberts, who recently brought in two national GOP consultants to run his embattled campaign, now is making the race a referendum on Reid, the person whom Roberts blames for blocking Republican bills and amendments in the Senate.

"I'm the only one on this stage who can make a Republican majority, put Harry Reid out to pasture and get things done," Roberts said at one point in the debate.

Turning the race into a referendum on another state's senator may be risky, according to some recent polls. The independent firm Rasmussen Reports found recently that 20 percent of the voters they surveyed nationwide didn't know enough about Reid to offer an opinion of him. A Gallup poll in April said 22 percent have never heard of him.

The single most unpopular figure in Congress, according to Rasmussen, is House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has a 60 percent unfavorable rating nationwide. But that's only marginally worse than former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is in second place with a 56 percent unfavorable rating.

But Roberts' new campaign manager, Corry Bliss, says it's a logical strategy, given the nature of this year's race.

"It is very relevant when this is a race to determine who is in charge of the Senate," Bliss said. He said that as often as Roberts mentions Reid, Orman talks about gridlock in Washington, "and Harry Reid is the reason why there's gridlock in Washington today."

Reply 2 comments from Linda and Bill Houghton Foodboy

Kansas Senate race becomes nationalized

The U.S. Senate race in Kansas appears to have been taken over by the national organizations of both political parties, albeit in very different ways.

The latest news today is that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has taken over the troubled campaign of Sen. Pat Roberts, pushing out his longtime aide Leroy Towns as campaign manager and replacing him with Chris LaCivita, a consultant with the Virginia-based Advancing Strategies, LLC.

That move followed a bizarre turn of events on the Democratic side where national party officials, including Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, nudged their own candidate Chad Taylor out of the race in the hopes that independent candidate Greg Orman can knock off Roberts, even though Orman has never committed to caucusing with the Democrats if he wins.

That was followed by Republican maneuvers to force Taylor to stay in the race. Thursday afternoon, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican and a member of Roberts' honorary campaign team, ruled that Taylor could not withdraw from the ballot because he had not followed the letter of the law on how to do so, even though Taylor says he had consulted longtime elections chief Brad Bryant to make sure he was doing it properly.

It's rare that national political parties take any interest at all in a Kansas race. While the state has a pretty even history of electing governors from both parties, in presidential and U.S. Senate races, the state has long been a reliable GOP stronghold. Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to win Kansas' presidential electoral votes, and no Democrat has won a Senate race here since the Great Depression.

As a result, it's rare that any presidential candidate ever campaigns or runs a TV ad in Kansas. Democrats won't waste their money here; Republicans don't have to.

But this year's Senate race is different, (a) because it appears to be unusually close and (b) because nothing less than control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.

Roberts, who has been a fixture in Washington since he was a congressional aide in the 1960s, barely survived a bruising primary race against tea party challenger Milton Wolf, winning with less than 50 percent of the vote. Recent polls for the general election have shown him slightly ahead in an essentially three-way race against Taylor and Orman, but still getting less than 40 percent of the overall vote.

But in hypothetical head-to-head matchups, at least one poll showed Roberts could lose if Orman were the only major challenger in the race, while he could probably beat Taylor on his own.

That poll came from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling. But the fact that Democrats are maneuvering to make it a two-man race between Roberts and Orman, coupled with GOP maneuvers to keep Taylor on the ballot and to take over Roberts' campaign, probably indicates they have internal polls showing much the same thing.

At stake in all this is the GOP's hopes of winning back control of the Senate this year. They need a net gain of six seats to accomplish that, and the latest guestimate from the statistics geeks at FiveThirtyEight blog say there's a 63.4 percent chance that will happen.

There are 36 Senate seats up for election this year, a bit more than usual because of three special elections in Oklahoma, Hawaii and South Carolina.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call says Republicans have strong hopes of picking up seats currently held by Democrats in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado and Oregon. And if this turns out to be a “wave” election, they might well pick up additional seats in Minnesota and Virginia.

But if Roberts is vulnerable in Kansas, that could change the whole calculus.

And that's what makes the action by Democrats appear especially odd. Because by dumping Taylor in favor of Orman, they are gambling on at least a 50-50 chance that he'll caucus with the Republicans anyway, in which case the Democrats will have gained nothing.

Reply 1 comment from Clark Coan

Kobach: Democrat Taylor must stay on Senate ballot

UPDATE — 3:10 p.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kansas must remain on the November ballot even though he wants to withdraw against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday Democrat Chad Taylor did not comply with state law. He says Taylor didn't formally declare that he would be unable to serve if elected.

Taylor Wednesday withdrew from the race without explanation, raising questions about whether he quit to give independent candidate Greg Orman a better shot at defeating three-term conservative Roberts, who has struggled to solidify re-election in a predominantly Republican state.

The Kansas race suddenly emerged as a wild card in the national fight for control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to control the chamber.


ORIGINAL POST

Former Democratic Senate candidate Chad Taylor said he consulted with party leaders "at every level" before deciding to bow out of the race. But leaders at the Kansas Democratic Party headquarters say they were caught completely by surprise.

Furthermore, neither party officials nor state election officials were able to say Thursday morning how, or even whether, the Democrats could name another candidate in time to have that name put on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"We are still assessing what's going on," state party chairwoman Joan Wagnon said. "I hadn't thought about replacing a nominee."

Wagnon said she and her staff would have to review the statutes that govern how to replace a candidate. That's the exact same answer the Kansas Secretary of State's office gave when it was asked what options were available.

"I'm unable to comment on that at this time. We're still reviewing the laws," said Bryan Caskey, a senior aide in the elections division.

Meanwhile, Kansas Republican Party officials say they may contest the legality of Taylor's withdrawal.

Kansas GOP executive director Clay Barker said the basis for that lies in K.S.A. 25-306b, which says a party nominee can withdraw from a race if he or she, "declares that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office."

It then goes on to say such person must file a written, notarized notice with the Secretary of State. But it doesn't specifically say that the notice has to state why the person is "incapable of fulfilling the duties of office."

Taylor's notice, filed Thursday afternoon, made no such declaration about an inability to fulfill the office of U.S. Senator. But Barker said there nevertheless has to be a reason. And he said the logical next question is, if Taylor is incapable of fulfilling the duties of a senator, how can he still be capable of fulfilling the duties of Shawnee County District Attorney?

Republican Party state chairman Kelly Arnold suggested in a statement Thursday that Taylor's withdrawal was orchestrated by national Democratic Party officials in Washington.

"This is an attempt by Liberal Washington Democrats to disenfranchise Kansas Democrats and invalidate their primary election," Arnold said. "You cannot throw an election in the garbage because some people find the results inconvenient."

All of this is happening just days before Saturday's Kansas State Fair debates in Hutchinson, the traditional kicking-off point for the general election, where organizers had planned on having three podiums for the Senate debate, for Republican Pat Roberts, Taylor and independent candidate Greg Orman.

But party officials on all sides acknowledge that Taylor's withdrawal changes the dynamics of the race, now making it either a two- or three-person race, depending on how one counts Libertarian candidate Randall Batson, who has been polling between 5 and 9 percent, just enough to make him a potential spoiler in the race.

Roberts has been polling below 40 percent, with Taylor and Orman combined taking about 50 percent of the vote. But it may be premature to assume that all of Taylor's supporters will now automatically switch their allegiance to Orman, who has stated publicly that he will align himself with whichever party caucus has a majority in the Senate come January.

That being the case, the Senate race in Kansas may now be a contest between two Republicans. Orman's preference will depend on how voters act in all the other states where there are competitive Senate races.

Reply 10 comments from Merrill Jason Randall Fred Whitehead Jr. Jason Bowers-Chaika Bob Forer Scott Quenette

Taylor withdraws from 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.

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

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

Reply 14 comments from Merrill Joe Blackford II Jay Reynolds Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Mike Wasikowski Philipp Wannemaker Steve Jacob Fred Whitehead Jr. Clark Coan Jonathan Becker and 1 others

Davis pulls first TV ad amid concerns about actor

Democratic candidate for governor Paul Davis launched his first TV ad of the campaign on Wednesday, and then promptly pulled it off the air after the Kansas Republican Party said an actor in the commercial had previously been charged with sex offenses.

"His first ad strikes a confident tone, setting the record straight on his bipartisan credentials and clear record of commonsense, moderate leadership during his 12 years in the legislature," the Davis campaign said of the ad in a press release around 11:30 a.m.

But shortly afterward, people who clicked on the hyperlink to view the ad on Davis' campaign website got a message saying it was a "private video." And moments after that, the message was changed to say the video had been removed.

At first, campaign spokesman Chris Pumpelly told the Journal-World in an email that was the result of "technical issues" that would be fixed "momentarily." But by mid-afternoon, the page had been deleted entirely from the campaign website.

Around that time, the Kansas Republican Party issued a news release with the headline, "Sexual deviant plays prominent role in new Paul Davis television ad."

The release said an actor who appeared in the ad had been arrested in 2007 for soliciting sodomy in a city park in Topeka and that years earlier he had been banned from the Boy Scouts of America when officials there learned he had been suspended from a high school teaching position for allegedly making sexual advances toward a male foreign exchange student.

The GOP press release also provided links to documents, including a series of "confidential" correspondence from 1989 between the Jayhawk Area Council of the Boy Scouts and Seaman High School concerning the teacher.

Although nothing from the high school confirms the allegations of sexual impropriety, a "confidential record sheet" from the Boy Scouts indicates he was being denied registration because he had been "suspended from teaching after allegations of sexual advances to male student."

"The use of an actor with this sort of background raises serious questions about Paul Davis' judgment and what kind of people he would surround himself with if elected," Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said in the news release.

According to documents circulated by the state GOP, the person charged with solicitation entered a diversion agreement and paid a $150 fee. Correspondence from Seaman High School in 1989 indicated that school officials would not comment on his employment status other than to say he was on medical leave and that his contract would not be renewed.

Later, the Davis issued a statement saying his campaign had pulled the ad off the air.

“We produced a series of ads," the campaign said. "Today, it was brought to our attention that a participant in one of those ads has serious issues in his background. Upon hearing of these issues, the ad, which ran for a few hours, was pulled down immediately. I want to apologize to Kansans for this mistake.”

Reply 5 comments from Leslie Swearingen Parkay Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Fred Whitehead Jr. James Howlette Steve Jacob

Polling averages show tight Kansas governor’s race

Political junkies in Kansas are being treated to an unusually large number of polls this election cycle, which gives people who are nerds about statistics a lot to work with.

The latest came out Tuesday night from SurveyUSA, which conducted a poll on behalf of KSN-TV in Wichita. It showed Democrat Paul Davis with an eight-point lead, 48-40 percent, over incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

It was the third public poll conducted since the Aug. 5 primary, and all three have shown Davis ahead in the race, giving the Davis camp a boost of confidence. But when all three polls are averaged together, the results still show a close race.

The polls included one by Public Policy Polling, showing Davis ahead by two, 39-37 percent; and one by Rasmussen Reports showing Davis ahead by 10, 51-41 percent. Each poll was conducted differently using different sample sizes, resulting in slightly different margins of error. But when the three of them are combined as if they were all one poll, you come up with this:

Here, we're looking at the raw number of respondents who indicated how they would vote if the election were held on the day they were polled. SurveyUSA provides those raw numbers. For the other two, the numbers were calculated using the reported percentages and sample size.

Mark Joslyn, a Kansas University political science professor who studies public opinion polling, said those numbers show the race is far from decided.

"The reasonably consistent low support for Brownback does indicate a close race," Joslyn said in an email when asked to comment on the numbers. "In that regard, how firm voters’ support is and how the undecided break are keys to the eventual outcome."

An important point about the table above is that we've combined the "other/undecided" voters with those who said they support Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr. Two of the polls, SurveyUSA and PPP, gave people the option of picking Umbehr. The Rasmussen survey did not.

SurveyUSA shows Umbehr polling at 5 percent while PPP showed him at 9 percent. So if we give him an average of 7 percent, out of the 2,213 people sampled, that still leaves about 8.4 percent undecided.

The question for Brownback, then, is what can he do to sway those voters that he hasn't already done during three and a half years in office. Given his high disapproval ratings (53 percent in Rasmussen; 55 percent in PPP), the answer is twofold: rewrite the narrative of his first term in hopes of changing voters' assessment of him and launch a negative campaign to convince undecideds that Davis would be worse, both of which the Brownback campaign has been doing.

The latter may be an achievable task, given Davis' current low name recognition. In the PPP poll, 41 percent said they're not sure what to think of him. In the Rasmussen poll, 19 percent said they've never heard of him.

Thus, Davis' challenge will be to connect with those undecided voters and make them feel comfortable voting for him before Brownback's negative message has a chance to sink in.

Reply 17 comments from Merrill Lawrence Freeman James Howlette Ed Johnson Clark Coan Peter Hancock Steve Jacob

Taylor facing heat from women’s group

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chad Taylor is facing heat from a Democratic women's group stemming from a controversy three years ago over prosecuting domestic battery cases in Shawnee County. But Taylor says the issue is being misconstrued, and he insists he still has strong support from women voters.

Women for Kansas is a group that formed last year, mainly for the purpose of unseating Gov. Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, both Republicans. Leaders of the group are mainly professional women from the Wichita area, but they expect about 480 women from throughout the state to attend their convention in Wichita this weekend.

Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, is challenging three-term incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican. The race also includes independent candidate Greg Orman and Libertarian candidate Randall Batson.

Taylor said he was not invited to speak at the convention. And when, at the urging of some members of the group, he asked to be included in the program, he was told there was no room for him. But Lynn Stephan, co-chairwoman of the group, denied that Taylor had ever called to ask. She also said the candidates speaking are only those who've been endorsed by the group.

Stephan said they decided to endorse Orman because they think he's the best candidate. But she also said, “Taylor has problems.”

Those problems, she said, stem from Taylor's decision in 2011 to stop prosecuting misdemeanor cases from the city of Topeka, about half of which involved domestic battery complaints. The intent, he said, was to send those cases to the city's municipal court.

Taylor said he made that decision after the Shawnee County Commission imposed across-the-board budget cuts of about 10 percent on all county agencies for the following year. Advocates for domestic violence victims complained loudly, as did the city of Topeka, which said its municipal court system could not handle the increased caseload.

The controversy soon mushroomed into national news when the Topeka City Council voted to repeal its ordinance against domestic battery. That was meant to force those cases back to the district attorney's office so they could be prosecuted in state court. But newspaper headlines and cable news talk shows suggested Topeka and Shawnee County had just "legalized" domestic battery.

Taylor said he learned a lot from that controversy and the media attention it drew.

"It sounded good (but) the factual recital at the time was inaccurate," he said. "It was an issue of budgets and who had the capacity in their system."

Under pressure from victims advocates, Taylor's office soon resumed prosecuting misdemeanors. And earlier this year, Topeka reinstated the ordinance against domestic battery.

Polls so far do not show Taylor suffering from a measurable gender gap. His support is split fairly evenly between men and women. He also says the controversy did not hurt him in 2012 when he was elected to a second term as DA.

“I think that the local citizens in Topeka and Shawnee County had a much clearer grasp of what was going on with the situation,” Taylor said. “If it was truly how it was made out to be in the national media, there ain't no way in hell I ever would have been elected to a second term.”

Still, the controversy haunts him on social media where an online petition appeared this week to urge the Kansas Democratic Party to remove Taylor from the ballot. The petition states that it's sponsored by "Kansas Women," but Stephan said it did not originate from her group, Women for Kansas. As of Tuesday, the petition had gained only six signatures.

Jason Perkey, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said the party stands behind Taylor.

"Chad Taylor is the Kansas Democratic Party's nominee; Kansas Democrats made that decision three weeks ago in our primary," Perkey said.

Reply 1 comment from Cindy Kelly

Kobach explains his delinquent tax listing

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had an experience that no candidate or public official ever wants when his name appeared on the Douglas County list of delinquent property taxes.

Kobach lives in Wyandotte County but owns agricultural property in rural Douglas County. His name appeared on the delinquent tax lists that were published in the Journal-World Aug. 13 and 20. Kobach said that was because he appealed the valuation on the property, which he said increased significantly in the past year.

Kobach said he was successful in the appeal, but either didn't receive or didn't notice the revised valuation notice and, as a result, missed the deadline for making the first half tax payment.

"I actually called them, and they gave me the revised number over the phone," Kobach said.

Kansas property tax payments are due in two installments each year. The first half is due on Dec. 20, and the second half is due May 10. For most property financed with a mortgage, the cost of the tax payments is typically built in to the monthly payment amounts and the company servicing the loan makes the payments. Otherwise, the property owner must pay the taxes directly.

County treasurers are responsible for collecting real estate taxes, and each year they must compile a list of delinquent taxes that are subject to foreclosure. But before compiling that list, they must publish the list of delinquent taxes in the official county newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks in August.

According to Douglas County Treasurer Paula Gilchrist, Kobach paid the $614.32 tax bill on Aug. 13, the same day the first delinquent tax list was published. But that did not include an additional $16.30 the county added for advertising and administrative costs. She said Kobach paid that remaining amount Aug. 19, after the second list had been prepared and sent to the Journal-World for publication Aug. 20.

Reply 7 comments from Steve King Jason Bowers-Chaika James Howlette Greg Cooper Ned Wolfsosoon Lawrence Freeman Stuart Sweeney Keith Richards

Taylor says he’s in the race to win

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chad Taylor's campaign says you can forget about any rumors that he's even remotely considering withdrawing from the race.

"He absolutely will not drop out," Taylor's campaign manager Brandon Naylor said by phone Friday.

Taylor won a close Democratic primary on Aug. 5 for the right to challenge three-term incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.

Political chatter that Taylor might - or at least should - consider dropping out has gained momentum in recent days, probably in no small part due to suggestions by independent candidate Greg Orman, who says he views himself as the only viable candidate to beat Roberts.

Earlier this week, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released a survey showing the general election race surprisingly close, with Roberts at 32 percent; Taylor at 25 percent; Orman at 23 percent; and Libertarian candidate Randall Batson at 3 percent. Another 17 percent said they are still undecided.

But in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups, Orman out-polled Roberts, 43-33 percent, while Taylor trailed the incumbent, 39-43 percent.

"As weak as a 32% standing is for an incumbent, that still gives him a pretty clear lead due to his opponents pretty much splitting the anti-Roberts vote evenly," PPP's analysts said. "But if one of them was to pull out Roberts would really be in trouble."

The fact that the Kansas seat may be in play is loaded with national implications because the GOP has its hopes set on winning back control of the Senate. To do that, they need a net gain of six seats, but their game plan has never even remotely considered the idea that Roberts might be vulnerable.

The independent polling firm Rasmussen Reports — which showed Roberts up 44-40 percent over Taylor in a two-way race — now puts the Kansas seat race in the "toss-up" column, and the Cook Political Report calls it "leans Republican."

Then Thursday night, Democrat Jim Sherow, who is running for Congress in the 1st District against incumbent Republican Tim Huelskamp, made headlines by announcing his endorsement of Orman.

All of that has unfolded in the days leading up to the Democratic Party's big "Demofest" convention this weekend, the party's big opportunity to showcase its candidates under one roof and collectively kick off their general election campaigns.

Naylor confirmed that Thursday night, Democratic Party executive director Jason Perkey went to visit Taylor to talk about Sherow's announcement, but said there was no discussion whatsoever about Taylor bowing out of the race.

But for all the talk about what might happen in a two-way race, Taylor's aides say the fact remains that it's a four-way race, including Batson. And in that contest, they say, Taylor is within a handful of percentage points against a sitting three-term incumbent.

Reply 2 comments from Dorothy Hoyt-Reed James Howlette

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