New judge appointed in election lawsuit

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By Stephen Lega

A new judge has been appointed in the lawsuit contesting the results of the May 20 Republican primary election in the race for the 24th District state representative.

On June 23, Circuit Judge David A. Tapp of the 28th Judicial Circuit was appointed to preside over the case. Marion Circuit Judge Dan Kelly and Circuit Judge David Williams of the 40th Judicial Circuit each recused themselves from the case.

Richard Treitz lost the Republican primary to J. Alex LaRue. LaRue received 1,400 votes in the race to Treitz’s 1,166. A third candidate, Amber Dones, withdrew from the race after the ballots had been printed. In spite of that, Dones received 343 votes.

The winner of the election will face Democratic State Rep. Terry Mills in November.

Treitz, who is representing himself, filed his complaint May 30 in Green Circuit Court. Treitz named the circuit clerks and boards of election in Green, LaRue and Marion counties, Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, Attorney General Jack Conway, and J. Alex LaRue as respondents in his complaint. Treitz did say that he does not believe his opponent did anything wrong.

In his complaint, he wrote, “The Green, Marion and LaRue County clerks prepared defective ballots and delivered them to the voters without notice of the defect, despite having been notified of the withdrawn candidate on March 13, 2014, causing voters to be misled as to what candidates were eligible to receive their votes.”

Ballots for the race were printed in February, and Dones withdrew from the race in March.

According to Treitz, his lawsuit is about the voters who were “disenfranchised” because they were not aware that a candidate had withdrawn from the race.

In his complaint, Treitz accused the county clerks of “dereliction of duty” for not informing voters that Dones was no longer a candidate. 

Marion County Clerk Ann Sandusky reported that her office provided signs to be posted at each polling place to inform voters that Dones was no longer a candidate. LaRue County Clerk Linda Carter said similar efforts were made in her county, according to The LaRue County Herald News.

However, The Greens-burg Record-Herald reported that precinct officers in Green County said they did not receive notification that a candidate had withdrawn.

Treitz has requested that either Dones’ votes be awarded to him (which would give him enough to win the race) or that a special election should be held with just him and LaRue on the ballot. The estimated cost to hold a special election would be $30,000 in Marion County, $15,000 in LaRue County and $10,000 in Green County.

Attorney Aaron Smith of Bowling Green is representing the Green, LaRue and Marion County clerks and boards of elections. Smith filed motion to dismiss the lawsuit on June 6.

In the motion, Smith argues that the complaint should have been filed in the county where the “contestee” resides. According to the motion, previous case law has held that the contestee is the candidate who won the election. In this instance, the contestee (LaRue) resides in LaRue County.

Smith also argues that Chapter 120.155 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes provide that only the winning candidate should be named as a respondent to the complaint. As such, he argues that the county clerks and boards of elections should be dismissed from the case.