The tangled legal dispute over a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Kansas may be reaching its end.
On Tuesday the Kansas Supreme Court put off consideration of a lawsuit aimed at forcing Democrats to nominate a Senate candidate to replace Chad Taylor, who withdrew from the race Sept. 3.
Instead, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss sent the lawsuit, filed by David Orel of Kansas City, Kan., to Shawnee County District Court for further consideration.
Orel’s son works with Gov. Sam Brownback’s campaign.
Nuss’ order said the Supreme Court lacked evidence to consider Orel’s argument that state law requires Democrats to pick a candidate.
His decision is likely to delay any final ruling for weeks, making it impossible for Democrats to provide a nominee before November ballots are locked in place.
“We think that we could survive if the trigger was pulled Oct. 1,” said an email from Brian Newby, Johnson County election commissioner. “That’s pushing it.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he would inform the district court of the time pressure related to its decision. He hoped to have a ruling by the end of this week.
But outside experts said that isn’t likely. A district court proceeding could involve witnesses, legal arguments and a lengthy appeals process.
“The effect of this order is to delay things beyond the point at which it would make sense for Democrats to put a name on the ballot,” wrote election law expert Rick Hasen. “Democrats had been hoping to run out the clock in this case, and this is a big order helping that cause.”
The ballot now offers voters a choice among Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, independent Greg Orman and Libertarian nominee Randall Batson.
A ballot without a Democrat is seen as a help to Orman because anti-Roberts votes could coalesce around one major candidate.