Several candidates for state legislative office are decrying the partisanship in Frankfort that has put their bids in limbo. The General Assembly approved new district maps last month, but the plans faced legal challenges and were thrown out last week by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherds’ ruling. That’s caused candidates who are running in the new districts to either drop out, be disqualified or decide to wait for the appeals process to finish before mounting campaigns.
Democrat Steve Bittenbender can run in the 37th District for the state Senate under either map proposal. But he says the uncertainty of representation is too much for candidates and voters.
“I believe that it is in the best interests of the state and it’s in the best interest of the voters to let a neutral third party redraw these districts. If you take a look at these new districts, there was politics done on all sides,” he says.
Bittenbender has pledged not to run against incumbent Perry Clark because of his previous support, but he only shares a district with Clark under the old plan.
Other candidates have had to re-file with different witnesses as the districts have changed and a filing fee is required each time. Both incumbents and challengers are now uncertain who they might be running against, which makes their candidacies difficult to prepare for.
“It is frustrating. I had to file twice because we literally went in on the deadline to see all who was running. One of my witnesses came from a precinct that had been moved out,” says former Louisville Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins, who is running for the 37th District seat as a Republican. “You would like to know who is in the race, but you’ve always had this sort of wrangling and I’m in the race regardless.”
Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers have appealed the injunction against the new maps and have asked it be sent directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The filing argues the new districts do comply with federal court rulings and state lawmakers are asking the appellate court to ignore Shepherds’ ruling and allow this year’s elections be run in the new districts the legislature drew last month.
Bittenbender’s own campaign is on hold as he awaits for the results of the appeals process. He says this process has hampered not only his campaign, but a burgeoning business as well.
“Not only am I starting up a possible political campaign I’m also starting up a marketing and communications consulting business as well. If I’m running, I would like to devote my full time and energy toward running for office. If not, I would like to take advantage of that time to get my business up and running,” he says.