By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — A judge issued an order Tuesday that extended the filing deadline for state legislative candidates by at least a week as he considers a legal challenge of Kentucky’s new legislative district boundaries.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, in a four-page order, said the filing deadline for state House and Senate candidates won’t come before 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 7. It was scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 31.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said her office will continue to accept nomination papers from candidates for state senator and representative until the new deadline.
Despite the extension, several candidates filed Tuesday for Kentucky’s General Assembly, while two longtime state lawmakers — Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead, and Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster — said they have decided not to seek re-election. Their terms will end at the end of this year.
Lundergan Grimes noted that candidates for U.S. Congress have until 4 p.m. Feb. 7 to file because of another redistricting bill Gov. Steve Beshear has signed into law, and that the filing deadline for candidates for president and judicial races ended at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Lundergan Grimes said longtime staff in her office could not recall three different filing deadlines in an election season.
Shepherd’s ruling comes after House Republicans’ challenged the constitutionality of House Bill 1, which redrew boundaries for state House, Senate and Supreme Court districts. Gov. Steve Beshear signed it into law Jan. 20 and House Republicans challenged it in court last week.
Republicans asked for a temporary injunction to delay the ]filing deadline but Shepherd instead issued the restraining order, saying he needed more time to consider a temporary injunction. A restraining order cannot be appealed to a higher court.
Shepherd set a Feb. 6 hearing on the House GOP request for a temporary injunction.
Shepherd said in Tuesday’s ruling that “the record needs to be more fully developed before the court can issue a ruling on the motions for temporary injunction.”
He said the plaintiffs “made the showing … that their rights ‘are being or will be violated’ and that they will suffer ‘immediate and irreparable harm’ before the completion of the hearing set by this court for Monday, Feb. 6.”
Shepherd said the public interest in the case “requires a full hearing on the pending motions for injunctive relief and the merits of the claims and defenses presented in this action.”
House Republicans basically claim HB 1 is unconstitutional because it divides more counties into separate legislative districts than necessary. The House plan split 28 counties and 246 precincts, although only 22 counties have populations that exceed the roughly 43,000 people that each district must contain. A GOP proposal would have split 24 counties and 10 precincts.
Shepherd on Monday allowed Sen. Kathy Stein, a Democrat whose Lexington district was moved to northeastern Kentucky, and several Fayette County residents to intervene as plaintiffs in the GOP lawsuit.
Stein said she is “quite pleased” with Shepherd’s restraining order.
“All we were asking for is the opportunity to put all the evidence before Judge Shepherd,” she said.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, declined to comment on the ruling. But he noted that in previous legal challenges regarding redistricting, the judges allowed the election process to go forward rather than issue an injunction or restraining order.
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said he was looking forward to the Feb. 6 court hearing.
“If you read his order, he’s got some serious questions about the redistricting plan,” Hoover said.
Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he continues to feel that the Senate map is constitutional.
“We worked very hard for nine months to make sure it is,” he said.
The extension of the filing deadline “probably means more angst” among incumbent lawmakers, Thayer said. As a general rule, lawmakers try to avoid election challengers by delaying votes on controversial issues until after the filing deadline passes.
Still, Thayer said the extension will not affect the timing of when he might file a constitutional amendment backed by the governor to expand gambling in Kentucky.
Meanwhile, several candidates filed Tuesday for the state legislature, including Chris Logan, pastor of High Point Church in Lexington. He filed as a Republican candidate for the new 96th House District in southern Lexington. Democrat Reginald Thomas filed for the seat Jan. 23.
Other filers Tuesday included Scott County farmer Rich Hostetler, a Republican who will challenge Thayer in a primary; Republican Frank Haynes of Frankfort against Democratic Senate incumbent Julian Carroll; Republican Richards Marrs of Lexington against Democratic House incumbent Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington; and Republican Rep. Jill York of Grayson against Democratic House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook. York and Adkins were placed in the same House district in the new House redistricting map.
Walter Blevins, the Morehead Democrat who has been in the legislature since 1982, said he was leaving the Senate because “they are trying to beat me.”
He was referring to the new Senate map, which places him in the same district as Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.
Blevins said he will be backing Democrat Ralph Hoskins of Manchester, a retired Jackson County school superintendent.
Lonnie Napier, the Lancaster Republican who will be leaving after 28 years in the House, said he will be backing Nathan Mick, the Garrard County economic development director, as his replacement. Democrat Larry Woods of Lancaster and Republican David Meade of Stanford also have filed for that House seat.