The sudden withdrawal of Democratic candidate Chad Taylor from the Kansas senate race on Wednesday came after Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill personally urged him to step aside.
Taylor’s surprise announcement on Wednesday upended what had been a three-way contest and set up a head-to-head showdown between independent candidate Greg Orman and incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.
“I was happy to visit with Chad Taylor as he wrestled with a difficult decision,” said McCaskill, a Democrat, in a written statement Thursday. “He is a respected prosecutor, a great guy and I wish him well.”
A spokesperson for McCaskill confirmed the gist of the senator’s conversation with Taylor, but declined to go into detail.
McCaskill acknowledged that Taylor’s decision was both hard and personal, but she thinks very highly of him and thinks he has a bright political future, the spokesperson said.
Reached by telephone on Thursday, Taylor wouldn’t comment on the conversation with McCaskill or anything else.
“I'm done. I'm out. I'm withdrawn from the race. I'm not commenting on it,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s withdrawal from the race opens up a window for Orman to mount a serious challenge to Roberts. Most polls have shown Roberts with weak support, but he had maintained a lead because Orman and Taylor drawing votes away from each other.
Roberts’ campaign alleged that Taylor’s withdrawal was the result of a bargain by Democrats to benefit Orman’s candidacy.
McCaskill’s spokesperson said no one at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or in Senate leadership asked the Missouri Democrat to speak to Taylor. But Republicans were quick to accuse the Democratic party of meddling.
Kelly Arnold, chair of the Kansas Republican Party, accused Democrats of using “corrupt back room deals” and “secret promises” in a bid to defeat Roberts.
“It sure looks like the Kansas Democrat party bosses could not care less about what their own voters think and forced Taylor out,” said Arnold in a statement on Thursday. “The people of Kansas deserve to know what is going on behind the closed doors of the Democrat power brokers.”
The Kansas Republican Party has questioned whether Taylor can even be removed from the ballot, arguing that law requires a candidate to declare that he is incapable to fulfill his duty if elected at this point in the election cycle.
The Secretary of State’s office is expected to issue a decision on the matter by midday on Thursday.
In an interesting twist, Republicans have called for the Democratic candidate to remain on the ballot, saying that his removal would disenfranchise Democratic voters.
Joan Wagnon, chair of the Kansas Democratic Party, issued a brief statement that did not address Taylor’s reasons for dropping out of the race or the GOP’s accusations.
“We thank Chad Taylor for his service as a candidate and his continued service as the elected District Attorney of Shawnee County,” Wagnon said. “It is clear that Kansans are ready for new leadership. We will be monitoring this race closely.”
Bryan Lowry of the Wichita Eagle contributed to this report.