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Judge’s ruling has no effect on local election deadlines

Four candidates seeking two offices here

A Franklin Circuit Judge’s decision Tuesday to delay the filing deadline for state legislative offices has no effect on local elections, but may eventually play a role in determining whether Letcher County will be divided into three legislative district as a new law dictates.

Judge Phillip Shepherd’s ruling extends the deadline for legislative hopefuls until Feb. 7, but did not affect the Jan. 31 deadline for local offices, including the offices of Letcher Circuit Court Clerk and Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney.

When the deadline passed at 4 p.m. Tuesday, one Letcher County incumbent learned she will have competition in the May Primary Election, while another another incumbent learned he will have an opponent in November.

Incumbent Circuit Clerk Margaret Nichols is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Deborah Gibson, the wife of District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson. Gibson is making her first bid for public office after serving a number of years as secretary for late Letcher District Judge Jim Wood Jr.

Incumbent Edison G. Banks II, a Republican, and Frank Riley, a Democrat, will both be candidates for the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney. Because neither faces opposition in May they will battle for the office in the November general election. Riley, of Mayking, made of bid for the office of Letcher County Attorney in 2010.

The deadline to file for the May 22 election for most state and local offices was 4 p.m. on Tuesday. However, the state’s deadline for legislative hopefuls to file for election has been postponed for a week while a judge weighs the constitutionality of newly drawn district boundaries.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday that pushed the filing deadline to Feb. 7. Shepherd took the action less than two hours before the original deadline.

Republicans hard hit in a contentious redistricting battle filed a lawsuit last week challenging the constitutionality of newly drawn legislative boundaries, claiming they favor Democrats. A Democrat who was redistricted out of her Senate district joined the lawsuit.

House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover applauded the judge’s decision to delay the filing deadline and to schedule a hearing Monday to look at evidence in the case.

“If you read his order, he’s got some serious questions about the redistricting plan,” Hoover said. “I think he has some serious concerns about what has taken place.”

The lawsuit contends that the new legislative districts could have been better balanced by population and that they could have been drawn in a way would have required fewer splits in counties and precincts.

The outcome of the suit may also determine whether Letcher County will be split among three legislative districts as called for under the current plan.

Victor Maddox, a Louisville attorney representing the GOP, had argued Monday that not changing the filing deadline would cause irreparable harm. David Tachau, an attorney for the State Board of Elections, said Maddox had failed to prove that and that the deadline should remain unchanged.

Shepherd sided with Maddox in his order, saying Republicans had shown “that they will suffer ‘irreparable injury, loss or damage’ in the absence of a restraining order.”

The GOP’s lawsuit affects House, Senate and judicial redistricting.

Kentucky’s Democraticcontrolled House voted largely along party lines on Jan. 12 to redraw boundary lines in a way that sets up Republican vs. Republican races in three House districts. One unfortunate Republican would face powerful House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins in northeastern Kentucky.

The lawsuit contends that the new legislative districts could have been better balanced by population, and that they could have been drawn in a way would have required fewer splits in counties and precincts.

The new lines also produced some oddly shaped state House districts. The 89th stretches from the Tennessee border in McCreary County, zigzags narrowly through Laurel County, then encompasses all of Jackson County for a geographic setup that one lawmaker said would require an airplane for travel. One Senate district stretches from Barbourville to Morehead.

Kentucky is one of 25 states with pending court cases involving redistricting.

A similar Kentucky lawsuit filed after the 1990 census established some of the case law that House Republicans reference in their legal challenge.

State lawmakers have already agreed to postpone congressional filing deadlines for a week. That’s because House and Senate lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on new boundaries for congressional districts.

Negotiators trying to work out an agreement on a congressional redistricting plan have been deadlocked, but some movement had been reported in private talks late last week.

Compiled from Mountain Eagle and Associated Press reports.

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