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5 things to know about US Senate race in Kansas

Thursday - 9/4/2014, 7:50pm  ET

JOHN HANNA
AP Political Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Democrat Chad Taylor upended the U.S. Senate race in Kansas by dropping out, leaving three-term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts with independent candidate and businessman Greg Orman as his only major rival.

Here are five things to know about the race:

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1. WHAT'S AT STAKE?

The turmoil in the race comes as Republicans are seeking a net gain of six seats in the Senate to recapture a majority for Democratic President Barack Obama's final two years in office. The GOP has always counted on Roberts winning re-election, and a tough race in the normally safe Republican state clouds the party's national aspirations. In Kansas, the GOP has won every Senate race since 1932 and enjoys a nearly 20 percentage-point advantage among the state's 1.74 million voters, but dissention among Republicans has cost the party five of the last 10 governor's races.

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2. WHY IS KANSAS A BATTLEGROUND?

The 78-year-old Roberts won a tough primary race against tea party challenger Milton Wolf, a Kansas City suburban radiologist, with only 48 percent of the vote. He was dogged by questions about owning a Washington-area home while claiming rented space in the Dodge City home of supporters as his official Kansas residence. Some GOP moderates believe he moved too far to the right in the primary. Despite the election of conservative Sam Brownback to the governor's office, the state has a long history of electing moderate Republicans and even Democrats when the GOP is divided. Democrats have frequently held the governor's office in Kansas, including former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

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3. CAN TAYLOR REALLY JUST DROP OUT?

Taylor sent a letter Wednesday to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office, saying he was withdrawing. But the Republican Kobach, the state's top elections official, said Thursday that Taylor's name will remain on the ballot, because a 1997 state law allows the withdrawal of a nominee's name only if the candidate dies or declares in writing that he or she is "incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected." Taylor did not give a reason for withdrawing in his letter or a separate statement. He said Thursday he was told by a top Kobach aide that he'd fulfilled the requirements to withdraw; Kobach said that's not the case.

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4. WHAT'S NEXT?

Kobach said the only recourse for Taylor or someone else wanting to remove his name from the ballot is to file a lawsuit challenging the secretary of state's decision. Taylor said in a statement that he will challenge the decision but wasn't more specific about his plans. Meanwhile, the first candidate debate of the fall campaign is scheduled for Saturday at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.

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5. WHAT ABOUT THE INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE?

Orman is the first independent Senate candidate in Kansas since 1992, raising about $670,000 in contributions through July, after starting his campaign in May -- four times as much as Taylor. He is a 45-year-old suburban Kansas City resident and the co-founder of a business capital and management services firm. He's an unaffiliated voter but has been registered with both major parties in the past. He ran for Roberts' seat in 2007 as a Democrat but dropped out early in 2008.


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