Kansas Supreme Court ruling is a victory for Greg Orman and a defeat for Pat Roberts

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts (left) is trying to hold off independent candidate Greg Orman in Kansas.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts (left) is trying to hold off independent candidate Greg Orman in Kansas. The Associated Press

Thanks to a sensible Kansas Supreme Court decision Thursday, the eyes of the nation over the next seven weeks will be on the state’s U.S. Senate election.

We’re happy to see it. Kansas has always nurtured an independent political streak, and you never know when it will burst through. With citizens increasingly tired of Washington politics and gridlock, this seems as good a moment as any.

Republican incumbent Pat Roberts already was in the race of his life against independent Greg Orman.

But now that the court has ruled Democratic nominee Chad Taylor’s name must be removed from the ballot as he requested, recent polls show Orman has a better chance of knocking off Roberts.

Because every seat counts in the battle to control the Senate starting next January, the court’s ruling on Taylor’s situation was crucial to both parties.

Taylor’s request set off an interlude of political comedy, as Democrats fought to get their man off the ballot, and Republicans worked to keep him on.

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach rejected Taylor’s attempt to withdraw. True to his archly political leanings, Kobach was trying to help boost Roberts’ chance of survival in a three-way election.

Taylor, pressured by Democrats to get out of a race it appeared he could not win, argued he had done what was required of him. Taylor’s letter said he was withdrawing “pursuant to” a state statute, which requires a withdrawing candidate to declare himself incapable of fulfilling the duties of the seat.

Kobach argued that Taylor must expressly declare in writing he was incapable of serving.

The court flatly disagreed with Kobach, stating that the plain meaning of “pursuant to” “effectively declares he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected.”

Roberts illustrated that he was the loser on Thursday, releasing a nasty response accusing “liberal activist Supreme Court justices” of disenfranchising voters. His show of disrespect for the legal process is undignified.

Meanwhile, Orman’s backers stayed out of the mud, saying he was drawing support from a wide range of voters because “Kansas voters from across the political spectrum are fed up with the mess in Washington.”

They certainly are. Orman’s challenge is to convince enough Kansans that he’s the right candidate to help clean up that mess.