By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY Kan. (Reuters) - Kansas election officials must remove the name of the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from the November election ballot, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a decision that could help decide which party will control the chamber.
Democrat Chad Taylor properly withdrew from the race when he submitted papers two weeks ago and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is ordered not to include him on the ballot, the state supreme court ruled.
The Taylor candidacy is being watched nationally because Republicans are trying to gain control of the Senate in the Nov. 4 elections and had counted on incumbent Senator Pat Roberts winning.
Taylor's withdrawal leaves Roberts and independent Greg Orman as the two main candidates. It could shift votes to Orman, making it tougher for Roberts, who survived a strong primary challenge.
Roberts' campaign alleged that Democrats conspired nationally to pressure Taylor to remove himself from the ballot. Campaign manager Corry Bliss said on Thursday the supreme court acted politically in a ruling that disenfranchised Kansas voters.
"This is not only a travesty to Kansas voters, but it's travesty to the judicial system and our electoral process," Bliss said in a statement.
A poll taken by SurveyUSA for KSN-TV of Wichita a few days after Taylor's Sept. 3 withdrawal announcement had Orman at 37 percent, Roberts at 36 percent and Taylor at 10 percent.
"No matter who's on or off the ballot, Greg Orman is running as an independent against the broken system in Washington that has failed Kansas and failed America," Orman's campaign manager, Jim Jonas, said on Thursday.
Kobach, a Republican, had said Taylor failed to comply with state law when he withdrew his candidacy because he did not specifically state that he would be incapable of serving in the Senate if elected.
Taylor argued that a specific statement was not necessary as long as he cited the correct state law. The court agreed.
Taylor, the district attorney for Shawnee County, Kansas, said politics motivated Kobach's decision. Taylor has never said publicly why he wanted to withdraw.
Kobach has said politics played no role in his ruling and that Democrats would be required to name another candidate if Taylor were allowed to withdraw.
The state supreme court said it did not have to act on Kobach's assertion that Democrats must name another candidate.
(This story corrects attribution of quote to Roberts' campaign manager in paragraphs 5-6)
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Sandra Maler, Eric Walsh and Mohammad Zargham)