Nearly a week after 82nd District Rep. Dewayne Bunch announced his resignation, his wife, Regina Bunch, has announced plans to seek her husband's seat during the upcoming special election, which won't take place before December. Dewayne Bunch suffered a serious brain injury while breaking up a fight between students this past spring and resigned his position on Oct. 26.
"My husband worked extremely hard to obtain the position of State Representative of the 82nd District," Regina Bunch said in a press release. "He felt it was time for a new approach and most importantly to restore integrity and confidence in government. He worked diligently, with the strategy of all working together to advance the Commonwealth."
Regina Bunch said deciding to seek her husband's seat was a decision she did not come to lightly.
"I have spent time in prayer, held discussions with family and other lawmakers, but most importantly, I feel it is what Dewayne would expect of me," Regina Bunch said. "I have hoped and prayed that he would be able to return to the position, which he so enjoyed, however, after several setbacks, it became evident that it would not be possible for him to return to representing the district.
"I am confident in my knowledge base of the committees of which Dewayne is a member. I intend to follow his ideas and make sound decisions, based on what is best for the citizens of our district. I humbly request the opportunity to complete the term of which he was so committed."
Regina Bunch said that over the next week, she plans to meet with members of the Republican Party Committees from both Whitley and Laurel counties to officially request their support in becoming the Republican nominee in the upcoming special election next month.
Whitley County Republican Party Chairwoman Nancy Jones said Tuesday afternoon that she feels Regina Bunch is certainly qualified for the job.
"I can't speak for the entire board, but I can speak for myself," Jones said. "I really think his wife could carry on and probably do a very good job of it.
"I think she knows what he would be wanting.
I think she can represent him well, and I think he represented us well. I think that it is really admirable of her to want to continue his wishes."
Regina Bunch said at this point, she is just seeking the nomination for the special election.
"It is my prayer that Dewayne will at some point be able to run again," she said in an e-mail. "I am hoping to just be keeping the seat warm for him. My husband is an exceptional human being that has a servant's heart. His entire life he has never not finished what he started, and he has a work ethic that is above reproach. Hopefully, this is something that I can do for him."
Regina Bunch is a lifelong resident of Kentucky's 82nd district, and a special education teacher.
She also noted that she is the wife of a veteran, who has been doing correspondence for her husband during his absence.
Dewayne Bunch served on the committees of Education, Veteran's Affairs and Transportation last term.
Special election required
Mary Sue Helm, election administrator for the Kentucky Secretary of State's Office, said that the position can't be filled by appointment, and must be done through a special election.
Because the state legislature isn't in session, Gov. Steve Beshear will issue a writ calling for the special election, which can't be held any sooner than 35 days after the resignation.
Whitley County Clerk Kay Schwartz said that the election couldn't take place before December because voting machines are already set up for the upcoming Nov. 8 General Election, and are required by state law to be locked down for 30 days after the election.
Because the election must be held on a Tuesday, the soonest the special election could be held is Dec. 13.
Once the governor sets the special election date, each party's nominee will have to file at least 28 days before the election to file with the Kentucky Secretary of State's Office and pay a $200 filing fee.
The 82nd District is composed of all 36 Whitley County voting precincts and four precincts in southern Laurel County.
Helm said that the nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties will be determined according to party rules.
Both parties will follow similar procedures.
Charlotte Flanary, compliance officer with the Kentucky Democratic Party, said a local committee will get together and name the nominee to be on the ballot. Because more than one county is involved, there will be a weighted vote by precinct.
Republican party rules state that a committee made up of the county committees of each affected county shall the make the selection.
"Each member of a County Committee in attendance at such a meeting shall be entitled to vote a number of votes calculated as follows: (1) the number of registered Republicans in those precincts of that member's County which form a part of the district for which a nominee is to be chosen, divided by (2) the number of members of that County's County Committee who are present at such meeting," the rule states.
Whitley County Democratic Chairman Donnie Witt said that state Democratic Party officials told that they would be in touch about procedures and timelines for making a nomination after the November General Election next week.
Independents and write-in candidates
Independents and write-in candidates must also file with the Kentucky Secretary of State's Office. Independents cannot have been a registered Republican or Democrat after Jan. 1, 2011, in order to run as an independent candidate in this race, Helm said.
They must pay a $200 filing fee, and file a petition with the signatures of at least 100 registered voters in the legislative district. Those signing the petition don't have to be independents, and can be Republicans or Democrats.
Helm noted the office has already had one inquiry about papers to file as an independent in the race.
Write-in candidates must file a declaration of intent before the second Friday before the election, and pay a $50 filing fee.
The state estimates that special elections cost about $1,900 per precinct, Helm said. The 36 Whitley County precincts and four Laurel County precincts make the estimated total about $76,000
The state reimburses each county $194 per precinct, or about 10 percent of the cost. If the state estimate holds true, this means Whitley County taxpayers will be out about $61,416 and Laurel County taxpayers $6,824 for the special election.
Schwartz noted that because some precincts are housed in the same buildings, she thinks Whitley County's special election can be held for about $1,300 per precinct, or about $46,800 minus the state reimbursement.
Whether there is one race or 30 races on the ballot, the same process has to take place for each election, she added.
Helm said that if the resignation had taken place sooner, then the special election could have been held at the same time as the November General Election.
There are special elections for three offices on Whitley County's ballot next week, including jailer, circuit judge, and a Whitley County school board seat.
Elected in 2010
Dewayne Bunch was elected as state representative in 2010 defeating long-time incumbent Charlie Siler. Bunch's term in office expires on Dec. 31, 2012.
"Over the course of the past several months, our thoughts and prayers have been with our colleague, state Representative Dewayne Bunch, as he has recovered from a tragic accident that took place in the course of his work as a teacher at Whitley County High School," the house Republican leadership said in a press release.
"In the course of his recovery, his family has decided that it is best for not only him, but his constituents as well if he resigns his seat in the Kentucky General Assembly. While we will miss serving with Dewayne, we understand this decision and want what is best for his recovery.
"Dewayne has exemplified what it means to be a servant leader. Whether it was his service to our nation through the military, his service to the 82nd District as State Representative, or his service to the young people of Whitley County as an educator, Dewayne has time and again lived the type of life that can be an example to all of us. We wish him a speedy recovery."
Last special legislative election
The last time there was a special election for a legislative seat in Whitley County was Dec. 27, 1994.
Republican James D. Crase defeated Democrat Paul D. Dodson by a nearly two to one margin to win the 15th Senate District seat, which was vacated by the resignation of John Rogers.
Rogers was convicted on federal charges of conspiracy in connection with an interstate banking bill.
A total of 4,912 voters in Whitley, Pulaski and McCreary counties cast ballots for Crase compared with 2,269 votes for Dodson and 86 votes for write-in candidate William Fulton.
Only about 7 percent of registered Whitley County voters cast ballots in the race.