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SPOTLIGHT
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Senate campaign

Published on -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

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Kansas is attracting a lot of national attention this election cycle, primarily because of a deep fissure dividing the state Republican Party. The tea party faction has helped kick the elephants to the right, while moderates who've been kicked out of office are jumping ship.

Whether this is a to-be-expected self-correction or a true aberration, the likely result will be more than one incumbent being toppled Nov. 4.

More than 100 prominent Republicans have declared publicly their support for Gov. Sam Brownback's Democratic challenger, Paul Davis. Former state senator and majority whip Jean Schodorf renounced her lifelong GOP membership and now is the Democratic nominee facing Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is facing a significant challenge from Independent Greg Orman.

Note that we did not point out Democrat Chad Taylor in the Senate race. If he were Roberts' only competition, we would not anticipate an upset in the general election.

Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, did emerge from the primary victorious but with lackluster numbers. He edged Patrick Wiesner, 53-47, in a race that saw no campaigning from Wiesner. Taylor was solid in his home county, enough to tilt the election his way, but that was the only county he carried. Statewide, only straight-ticket Democrats supported him.

We're not sure if it's a lack of name recognition, or fallout from his decision not to prosecute domestic battery cases in Topeka any longer because of budget cuts. But if Democrats aren't rallying behind Taylor, there is no reasonable expectation even moderate Republicans will.

In fact, both groups already are beginning to defect to the Orman campaign. The newly formed Women for Kansas, a bipartisan coalition, has endorsed Orman. The Democrat challenging Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the First District, Jim Sherow, said Orman has the best chance to become the next senator from Kansas.

Roberts is ripe for an upset. The 78-year-old is a career politician if ever there were one. Since graduating from Kansas State University in 1958, Roberts served in the Marines for four years, spent almost five in the newspaper industry, and has either worked as a congressional staffer or has been an elected official. He spent 16 years in the House of Representatives and 18 years so far in the Senate. As his primary challenger, Milton Wolf, claimed and the New York Times verified, Roberts' claimed residence in Kansas actually is the Dodge City home of Duane and Phyllis Ross -- supporters and campaign contributors.

Roberts beat Wolf in August, but couldn't muster even a majority of Republican voters. It might be the right time for Roberts to retire in Virginia, and he wouldn't have to move. He already lives there.

But Chad Taylor cannot beat the incumbent senator. Neither can Libertarian candidate Randall Batson. We believe Greg Orman can.

But Taylor can siphon off just enough anti-Roberts votes that could keep Roberts in office. If Kansas Democrats are serious about wanting to defeat Pat Roberts, they need to convince Taylor to withdraw from the race.

The various defections taking place all are driven by moderate and centrists Kansans wanting a different direction for the state and nation. Kansans deserve both. It would be criminal not to capitalize on the unrest.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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