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Proposed ‘Wuchner Bill’ would extend filing deadline, under some circumstances, if incumbent withdraws

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Sponsors of a bill introduced in the Kentucky House Friday that will extend the filing deadline for candidates in a partisan primary under some circumstances, include several members of the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus.

House Bill 346, which was introduced Friday says, in part:

Clockwise from upper left, State Representatives, Sal Santoro, Brian Linder, Diane St. Onge and Kimberly Poore Moser, all from Northern Kentucky,  are cosponsors of HB 346. The proposed legislation is sponsored by Rep. Kenny Imes, R-Murray. If approved, the bill would extend the filing deadline for candidates in a partisan primary, under some circumstances, if an incumbent withdraws.

“If a candidate under this section who is an incumbent in the office sought or the only candidate for the party nomination in a partisan primary for the office dies, is disqualified to hold the office sought, or withdraws his or her nomination papers three (3) days or less before the last day on which nomination papers are permitted to be filed, the time for filing nomination papers for that office shall be reopened for a period of five (5) working days, excluding holidays and weekends. All nomination papers filed under this subsection shall be filed no later than 4 p.m. local time on the last day on which the papers are permitted to be filed.”

House Bill 346 is sponsored by Rep. Kenny Imes, R-Murray. Cosponsors include Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Florence, Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill and Rep. Diane St. Onge, R- Fort Wright.

The sponsors could not be reached for comment, but the proposed legislation appears to be designed to prevent a repeat of the January 30 withdrawal of 66th District State Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, which left a candidate of her choosing as the only Republican in the race.

Some in Boone County have already begun to refer to the proposed legislation as “the Wuchner Bill.”

Wuchner withdrew from the race just a few hours before the filing deadline and Boone County School Board member Ed Massey, a Republican, filed at about the same time.

Wuchner informed Massey and a few Boone County Republicans, who she identified as potential candidates, of her intention to withdraw on the Thursday before the filing deadline. She did not however, notify party leaders who say they would have liked the opportunity to inform potential candidates outside of Wuchner’s circle of her decision

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. The proximity of Wuchner’s withdrawal and Massey’s filing to the deadline did not provide other potential candidates who were not informed of the decision in advance an opportunity to consider filing.

As a result, Massey is now the only Republican on the ballot in a region that leans heavily toward the Party, giving him a strong chance to succeed Wuchner as the State Representative from the 66th District.

Wuchner’s decision drew strong criticism from Republican Party leaders and some elected officials, including Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown.

Wuchner

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

The Boone County Republican Party also issued a statement that criticized Wuchner’s decision to withdraw just before the filing deadline.

It read, in part:

“Transparency is a basic expectation of our elected officials, regardless of their party affiliation. The citizens and voters of Boone County deserve nothing less. The manner in which State Representative Addia Wuchner withdrew from the race at the filing deadline, only communicating her intent with a few chosen people, does not honor the trust her constituents have placed in her, nor does it encourage active political engagement.”

Wuchner said there were “no shenanigans” and she thought at least three Republican candidate would file for the seat.

Boone County Republican Party Chair Josh Walton said he had not seen the proposed legislation (HB 346) and would reserve judgment until after he had an opportunity to study it.

“I definitely like the sound of that provision,” Walton said. “I would need to see the whole bill before I made comments on whether to support it one way or the other.”

If approved, the existence of the bill probably ensures it will not need to be utilized, except in extreme circumstances, such as the disqualification, or untimely death, of a candidate.

While Wuchner denies it was her intent, if the goal of a candidate who withdraws is to choose a successor, or limit the field, the five-day extension provision should allow adequate time for other interested parties to file.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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