A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

State Rep. Wuchner withdraws candidacy at 11th hour, denies backroom deal to choose successor

By Mark Hansel
NKytribune managing editor

In a move that came as a surprise to just about everyone, State Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, announced her intention not to seek reelection Tuesday, just two hours before the candidate filing deadline.

Wuchner

At about the same time Wuchner was withdrawing from the race, Boone County School Board member C. Edward “Ed” Massey, filed papers to seek the Republican nomination for her House District 66 seat.

Some local Republicans, including Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown, strongly criticized the timing of Wuchner’s withdrawal and Massey’s filing.

“This was a backhanded, closed room deal to disenfranchise the voters of the 66th District,” Brown said. “This is why people don’t like politics. Two seasoned politicians pull of something that is self-serving and also disenfranchises other potential candidates.”

A candidate must file in person, in Frankfort, with the verifiable signatures of at least two residents who petition to have his or her name placed on the ballot.

Wuchner’s withdrawal and Massey’s filing, just before the deadline, virtually assured that no other potential Boone County candidates would have the opportunity to get to Frankfort in time to file for the seat.

Wuchner acknowledged reaching out to Massey Thursday, when she came to the decision that she was probably not going to seek re-election, but said she also contacted others who had previously expressed an interest in the seat.

Massey

She said Massey, who she defeated in the Republican primary in 2004 when she was first elected to serve the 66th District, was the only one who agreed to consider a candidacy.

“I would have loved to have had another woman run for my seat,” Wuchner said. “I did call Ed to let him know about my decision and talk to him about the responsibility to the Boone County community. It’s a lot to give to give up to serve in the House.”

In a letter to constituents, Wuchner said she began to consider not seeking reelection in the summer and fall of 2017 and also reached out to potential candidates at that time, but “it was not the right time in their life journey.”

“I wanted the people of Boone County to have a choice,” Wuchner said. “Everybody is looking for something secretive, but there are no shenanigans.”

Massey, who lives in Hebron, said he wasn’t aware Wuchner was thinking about withdrawing until she contacted him Thursday and said even then, she was unsure about her political future.

He struggled with the decision to run, and said had to scramble to get his paperwork filed before the deadline.

Letter from State. Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, to constituents, regarding her decision to withdraw from the 66th District House primary. Click to enlarge.

“I’m on the school board and I have a thriving law practice, so it was not an easy decision,” Massie said. “I talked to my family and my law partner and I prayed about it and made my decision Monday night. I didn’t go looking for this, it came looking for me.”

Boone County Republican Party Chair Josh Walton expressed disappointment that Wuchner did not contact him about her intentions. Walton, a teacher, was working Tuesday and said he did not hear about Wuchner’s decision to withdraw and Massie’ filing until about 30 minutes before the deadline.

“I wish that it had been done differently and I was just as surprised as you and everyone else,” Walton said. “Not just at the filing, but the timing of everything was shocking. I definitely had a few people in mind that I would have liked to see run.”

He emphasized that his comments are not a criticism of Massey’s qualifications, but are based on his disappointment with the timing of the decisions and the failure to inform party leaders.

The Boone County Republican Party conducted a meeting Monday night in advance of the filing deadline, and Walton said that if he had been contacted prior to that meeting, he could have informed other potential candidates.

Walton said potential candidates could have filed to run at any time prior to the deadline, but said Wuchner is generally held in high regard within the party and would have been a formidable opponent. He said party loyalty, and the recognition that it would only benefit the party to have a strong incumbent run unopposed in the primary, might have dissuaded some potential candidates as well.

“You would like to think things were not arranged and I really do not want to speculate until we know for sure,” Walton said. “It definitely has an appearance that makes people question the motives and that’s one reason we need to do things in as transparent a fashion as possible.”

Brown, who oversees elections in his position as Boone County Clerk, said that what Wuchner and Massey did does not violate election laws, but he believes it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of some voters and party members.

Brown

Wuchner said that she had planned to notify Massey Sunday, but was hospitalized over the weekend. She had a bout with the flu in December and has had some subsequent issues that required additional treatment.

She emphasized, however, that she is recovering and is focused on tackling the issues facing the General Assembly in this session.

“My time right now is committed to a budget, we have the pension to move forward, we will be working on tax reform,” Wuchner said. “There is a major piece of legislation I am working on right now that deals with opioid treatment and recovery and I am getting ready to file that bill. We have some major things yet to accomplish in 2018 and that’s where my commitment is.”

Massey has been a member of the Boone County Board of Education for more than 20 years. He has served as the past president of the Kentucky School Board Association and the National School Board Association as well as on the Board of Directors of the National PTA.

While Massey will not have an opponent in the May primary, he is expected to face a challenge in the November General Election.

Democrat Roberto Henriquez of Florence has filed for the seat and will be unopposed in the primary.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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2 Comments

  1. Todd McMurtry says:

    Democracy at its finest!

  2. Tommy Williams says:

    Addia Wuchner is a liar and a traitor to the conservative Republican cause.

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