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Western Ky. House candidate disqualified from GOP primary, will run as a write-in

Holloway for Kentucky House District 2
Kimberly Holloway.

A candidate for a state representative seat in western Kentucky will now be running as a write-in in the general election after a Graves County judge recently disqualified her from May’s Republican primary.

Circuit Court Judge Kevin Bishop last week ruled Kimberly Holloway would be disqualified from the GOP primary against incumbent Representative Richard Heath because of a paperwork mistake.

One of the two registered voters who signed Holloway’s candidacy declaration was a registered Democrat. State law requires candidates running in a party primary to have two signatures in the candidacy declaration from registered voters of the same party. Bishop’s order also states that the notary public who assisted Holloway and the two signees with the candidacy declaration did not administer an oath to the candidate or the signees as required by state law.

A voter in the district Holloway is seeking to represent – the second House district consisting of Graves County and part of McCracken County – filed a court motion in March to disqualify her from the ballot on that technicality involving the Democratic signee.

In an interview, Holloway said her stepdaughter had signed the declaration without knowing she was still registered as a Democrat, and it was “an honest mistake.” Holloway said she understands the difficulty of running as a write-in candidate in the November general election. She said she also plans to run for the seat in the next election cycle in 2024.

“I understand that the chances of winning as a write-in are slim,” Holloway said. “I'm just not ready to throw in the towel.”

Holloway said she originally decided to run for the seat because she was worried Heath wouldn’t adequately be present for constituent concerns, considering Heath is running simultaneously in two races – for the second district House seat and for state agriculture commissioner.

Theresa Crisler of McCracken County was the voter who challenged Holloway’s candidacy. According to the findings of fact in the judge’s court order, Crisler had been contacted by the chairperson of the McCracken County Republican Party about challenging her candidacy because Crisler “believed the Kentucky Revised Statutes should be followed especially when it comes to elections.” In an interview, Crisler said the challenge was “not political at all” and was about her concern regarding local candidates following state law.

McCracken County Republican Party Chairman Jason Crockett said he couldn’t speak to Crisler’s motivations; but that the party wants to ensure a qualified candidate runs for office in the general election. In this case, the local party chair’s fear was that there could be electoral uncertainty if a candidacy challenge took place after a potential Holloway primary election win.

“We wanted to make sure that the situation was adjudicated before the fact,” Crockett said. “We didn't care if she was qualified or disqualified. We just wanted it to be decided before she was the candidate.”

However, Holloway claims the challenge to her candidacy was “100% politically motivated.” She said she had a phone conversation with Crockett in early March about him potentially donating to her campaign, which she would then have used to pay for campaign advertising on the radio station Crockett manages in far western Kentucky. She felt “absolutely blindsided” when her candidacy was challenged weeks later.

“I don't think there was any nefarious intent. I'm just saying – it’s just interesting that he offered me [the donation] and I had his support,” Holloway said. “Then he turns around and does what he needs to have me removed from the ballot.”

Crockett confirmed he did have that conversation with Holloway in early March but said the donation was for only if she had won the primary election. He said he doesn’t get involved in primary elections and would have donated to Holloway if she had emerged out of the primary.

Because of the disqualification, Heath will go into the primary election unchallenged with no Democrat having filed to run against him in the general election. Heath was first elected to the seat in 2012, the last time he had a Republican primary challenger.

In an interview, Heath said he wished there had been a primary challenger so that there could be a “spirited debate” and an opportunity to reflect on how he’s served his community. During the court case challenging Holloway’s candidacy, Heath was subpoenaed by the Graves County Sheriff’s Office to testify in the case but didn’t return phone calls, as detailed in a Facebook post by Holloway and confirmed to WKMS News by the sheriff’s office.

Heath said he didn’t return the calls from the sheriff’s office because he was on vacation and had his phone turned off. He also said he had no personal connection to the person who challenged Holloway’s candidacy.

“She had a Democrat sign her paperwork which makes her ineligible. And it's all on her. I have nothing to do with it,” Heath said.

A spokesperson for the Kentucky Secretary of State said challenges to candidacies are not unprecedented. So far in this year’s primary election cycle, the candidacies of a Republican vying for a Louisville-based senate seat and a judicial candidate in northern Kentucky were also challenged.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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