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Louisville GOP legislative candidate disqualified over filing error 

A Jefferson County judge has disqualified a Republican candidate from running for a Louisville-area legislative seat because she didn’t technically live in the district when she filed to run.

Susan Tyler Witten was running for House District 31, a newly-drawn district that extends from Bowman Field to Jeffersontown in Louisville’s suburbs.

She filed her candidacy on Jan. 19, the day before new boundaries for legislative seats took effect after the Republican-led Legislature’s redistricting process.

Her Democratic opponent Sue Foster filed a lawsuit two weeks ago challenging her candidacy. Foster argued Witten and two signatories did not live in District 31 at the time for filing for office.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell ruled that Witten was not qualified at the time she filed because she didn’t reside in the district.

In a statement, Witten criticized the ruling and called Foster’s lawsuit a “desperate attempt to deprive the voters of this district of a choice.”

“This ruling by Judge Annie O’Connell was wrongly decided. Sue Foster is afraid to face voters this November. I look forward to appealing this terrible ruling to the Court of Appeals, then winning on November 8,” Witten said.

Louisville GOP Executive Director Malcomb Hanning said the judge misinterpreted the law.

“The district that she’s running for didn’t exist until the new redistricting took place. You should look at the district you are running for, not when you filed,” he said.

Hanning said the redistricting process brought on an unnecessary amount of confusion. 

“We’re all a little confused about how someone can interpret that rule based on some timeline technicality. That is very different from other candidates that were objectively living outside the other districts.”

With huge majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, Republicans had full control over Kentucky’s redistricting process this year.  Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the House maps in January this year, but it was quickly overridden by lawmakers.

A lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Democratic Party against the House and U.S. Congressional maps is still pending in Franklin Circuit Court.

Last month, the Democratic candidate for another Louisville-area legislative seat, House District 29, withdrew from the raceafter revelations that he had failed to switch his voter registration ahead of the deadline.

His replacement, Ann Federspiel Sermersheim, sued Republican Secretary of state Michael Adams to be certified as the Democratic candidate in the race. That case is pending in Jefferson Circuit Court.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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