The Democratic candidate in the race against Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas ended his campaign Wednesday, leaving an independent candidate and a Libertarian candidate to face off against the three-term Republican incumbent.
Chad Taylor, a district attorney, informed the Kansas Secretary of State Wednesday that he is withdrawing from the race. Originally, his statement said "suspended," but the word was lined through and replaced with a handwritten "terminated."
Taylor issued a separate statement saying he made the decision after consulting with his staff, supporters and Democratic Party leaders. He did not give a reason.
Kansas.com reported Wednesday that Taylor's move could lead to broader support for the independent candidate in the race, Olathe businessman Greg Orman. There is also a Libertarian candidate, Randall Batson, of Wichita.
Roberts' executive campaign manager Leroy Towns called the move a "corrupt bargain" between Democratic leaders and Orman's campaign and said Orman's independent status is "a smoke screen."
Recent polling data from Real Clear Politics shows Roberts is favored to win the race in GOP-leaning Kansas.
However, a recent poll from Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling showed Orman had a 43 percent to 33 percent lead over Roberts if the race was just between the two of them.
On the other hand, if all three candidates were in the race, 32 percent of voters picked Roberts, 25 percent picked Taylor and 23 percent picked Orman, according to a Public Policy Polling poll.
Orman had positioned himself as Roberts' most formidable opponent, and his fundraising was more robust than Taylor's. Orman issued a statement calling Taylor "a committed public servant."
Orman, the co-founder of a business capital and management services firm, ran for Roberts' seat in 2007 as a Democrat but dropped out early in 2008. He said he grew unhappy with both parties.
On Wednesday, Orman received the endorsement of Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, a group of former moderate GOP state legislators unhappy with the party's conservative leanings.
"What we really need to do is send a message to those folks in Washington that we want problem solvers there," Orman said during a Statehouse news conference on the endorsement.
Taylor said in a statement to Kansas.com he will continue to fight for Kansas' people even though his campaign is over.
“I have great love for the state of Kansas and the people that live here. I will continue to work in their best interest every day, but effective today, my campaign is terminated," he said.
Taylor is district attorney in Shawnee County, home of the state capital of Topeka. He won the office in 2008 and was re-elected without opposition in 2012.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican and former law professor, said his initial reading of state election laws is that they require the Democratic Party to pick a new nominee, but he said he'll consult with his legal staff Thursday.
Joan Wagnon, the Kansas Democratic Party's chairwoman, said she needed a few days to sort out the situation.
Republicans have won every U.S. Senate contest since 1932, and they enjoy a nearly 20 percentage-point advantage among the state's 1.74 million registered voters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.