KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew his name from the U.S. Senate ballot in Kansas on Wednesday, clearing the stage for a better-funded Independent candidate to take on three-term Senator Pat Roberts in what will likely be a tightly contested race this November.
Taylor gave no reason for his decision to withdraw from the race on the last day to do so. His campaign apparatus was largely silent on Wednesday, except for a tweet and Facebook post thanking supporters.
Thanks to our supporters - financial, spiritual and emotional.— Chad Taylor (@Taylor4USSenate) September 3, 2014
Recent polling by firm SurveyUSA showed Republican incumbent Roberts leading a split field with 37 percent of likely voters. Taylor trailed with 32 percent and Independent Greg Orman claimed 20 percent support. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson had 4 percent of likely voters.
Political observers in Kansas said Taylor’s withdrawal could be a boon to Orman, a wealthy Olathe businessman, running as an Independent. He raised five times as much money this campaign cycle as the Democrat.
Orman remains little-known, but his snappy television ads have drawn attention and grown his name recognition. A PPP poll released last month showed 64 percent of voters remained unsure of what they thought of Orman, but in a head-to-head matchup with Roberts predicted him winning 43-33.
Orman flirted with a Senate run in 2008 as a Democrat, but he withdrew before the primary. He has not yet said publicly with which party he would caucus, but the Roberts campaign is actively working to paint him as a liberal aligned with President Barack Obama.
“Chad Taylor’s withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race reveals a corrupt bargain between Greg Orman and national Democrats including Senator Harry Reid that disenfranchises Kansas Democrats,” Roberts’ campaign manager Leroy Towns told 41 Action News. “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.”
A spokesman for Orman denied any cooperation or conversation between the two men prior to Taylor’s withdrawal.
Greg Orman released a statement just before 5:30 p.m.
“This is certainly an unexpected turn of events. Chad Taylor is a committed public servant. He ran an honorable campaign and worked hard, and I wish him and his family well."
At his primary night victory party last month, Roberts looked to head off any Orman rise.
“I will have the distinction of being the only Senate candidate this year forced to fight two liberal Democrats in the general election, one, one masquerading as an Independent,” the Senator said.
Steve Kraske, a political columnist for the Kansas City Star and host of “Up to Date” on KCUR radio, said the likely tightening of this once-safe Republican race could bring a flood of advertising dollars and political attention to Kansas.
“Not only is Roberts' seat important to Republicans in Kansas, but nationally if this seat goes Independent in this case the chances of Republicans controlling the U.S. Senate in November virtually disappear,” Kraske said. “This is huge now. This race has now catapulted to the top of the listings across the country. Kansas is very much in play.”