Kentucky Supreme Court allows Kulkarni to stand in Tuesday primary, despite challenge

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


LOUISVILLE — The Kentucky Supreme Court will allow Louisville Democratic Rep. Nima Kulkarni to stand as a candidate in Tuesday’s primary election after she has faced legal challenges to her candidacy paperwork. 

The Supreme Court granted the representative’s motion to remain in the 40th House District Democratic primary, reversing a decision from the Kentucky Court of Appeals that Kulkarni was not a bona fide candidate. The Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments in the lawsuit to be heard Thursday, June 6. Certification of the election will follow that. 

Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter signed the order. All seven justices concurred with the decision. The motion was granted on Monday, less than 24 hours before polls opened in Kentucky. 

Kulkarni applauded the decision in a statement and asked Democrats in the 40th House District “to cast their ballot for me, the only candidate in this race who is seeking the office of State Representative in the best interests of our district.” 

“My opponent in this race has not been interested in campaigning, relying instead on legal tricks to take the choice away from voters,” she said. “I’m glad the Supreme Court has agreed to review our case. Democracy should always prevail.” 

Kulkanri is seeking a fourth term in the General Assembly. No Republicans filed to run in the 40th District. Kulkarni has one primary opponent — William Zeitz, of Louisville. Zeitz did not immediately return a request for comment. 

The candidacy challenge was filed in court by Dennis Horlander, who previously represented the House district and lost to Kulkarni in the 2018 and 2020 Democratic primaries. Steven Megerle, an attorney for Horlander, said that he and his client had not spoken with Zeitz. 

“She should pay more attention to the disruption and the electoral process that her continuous appeals have caused,” Megerle said. “And had she spent as much attention wasting judicial resources on trying to engage in lawfare and get back on the ballot, then she may have actually gotten her signatures right in the first place.” 

The lawsuit centers around the validity of Kulkarni’s candidacy papers. The law requires legislative candidates to have signatures from two witnesses who are registered as members of  their political party and who are registered to vote in the election. One of Kulkarni’s witnesses was a registered Republican when she signed the candidacy papers and later changed her registration to Democratic. 

James Craig, Kulkarni’s attorney said the Supreme Court’s decision “means the election continues and that Rep. Kulkarni remains on the ballot tomorrow.” He added that “we anticipate she will win, and win big.” 

Megerle said he was “not entirely surprised” the Supreme Court granted discretionary review to an incumbent lawmaker the day before the primary election. 

Polls are open in Tuesday’s primary election from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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