Kentucky’s highest court takes up state representative’s re-election petition

Published 3:28 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

The question of whether the re-election petition of State Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, was valid, since one of the two people signing the petition was a registered Republican at the time, was argued before the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday.

When Kulkarni filed her papers for a fourth term in early January, one of those on the petition was a Republican, who didn’t switch her party until after the filing deadline, as well as the deadline to switch parties and vote in the May Primary election.

Dennis Horlander, a fellow Democrat who Kulkarni defeated twice, filed the lawsuit seeking to have Kulkarni’s nominating petition declared ineligible, even though he was not on the ballot.

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Kulkarni’s position was upheld by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed the decision, leading Kulkarni to appeal that ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Kulkarni, who was allowed to remain on the ballot, although the results would not be certified until the High Court issues their decision, won the Democratic primary despite the controversy, by a margin of 78 to 22 percent.

James Craig, Kulkarni’s attorney, stated, “I don’t believe that in the record at any point in these proceedings, there has been a genuine question about Rep. Kulkarni’s good faith, genuineness or qualifications to hold office.”

He noted that in a 1987 case before the Supreme Court, the law stated, “signatories to a nominating petition are required to be of the same party as the candidate,” but in 1990, the General Assembly amended the law by removing some of the limiting language.”

Craig also stated that the nominating petition was approved by the Secretary of State.

Steven Megerle, representing Horlander, maintained Kulkarni did not follow the statutory requirement, “to have two persons of the same party sign her nominating petition when it was signed.”

He also told the Court, “What Judge Perry did was an act of legislating and writing laws, and recreating what KRS 118.125 says. It is clear, Ms. Kulkarni at no point in time until Jan. 8, did not have two people nominating her of the same party.”

In addition, Megerle argued the Secretary of State has no responsibility to verify the names on the petition, only the candidate herself.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter, noting the results of the May primary remain on hold, said the justices would render their decision as soon as possible.