Skip to comments.Kentucky Senate Seats Disputed Candidate [ didn't live in district required time]
Posted on 01/07/2005 1:09:33 PM PST by Mike Fieschko
The Republican candidate in a disputed election was sworn in Friday as the newest member of the Kentucky Senate, even though a judge ruled she did not meet the state's residency requirements. One GOP senator threatened to resign in protest.
Dana Seum Stephenson lived in Indiana from 1997 to 2000, but the Kentucky Constitution requires that senators live in the state for at least six years before taking office. Also, Stephenson is 23, and the constitution says senators be at least 30.
Brushing aside such concerns, the Republican-dominated Senate swore in Stephenson and defeated along party lines a committee's recommendation that Democrat Virginia Woodward be declared the winner of the Louisville district.
Senate President David Williams said he was confident the Senate had the power to determine its own membership.
"No court in the land could overturn that," he said.
On Election Day, Stephenson received 22,772 votes to Woodward's 21,750 votes, according to unofficial returns. At a judge's urging, the State Board of Elections certified Woodward the winner, and she took the oath of office on Jan. 1. But Stephenson asked the Senate to decide the race.
Democrats protested the decision to seat Stephenson. Senate floor leader Ed Worley called it "the greatest single act of pure, raw, ugly politics as I have ever seen take place in our Capitol."
Woodward had challenged Stephenson's residency on the eve of the November election, but the case was not heard in court until after the votes were cast.
Republican Sen. Bob Leeper, a member of the committee that recommended Woodward be declared the winner, proposed a special election to fill the seat. When Williams refused the request, Leeper said in a breaking voice that he had "tolerated a great deal up here" and threatened to resign. Leeper then left the Senate floor.
Stephenson's father is also a Republican member of the Senate.
I will miss Senator Leeper. He was truly one of the more honorable gentlemen of the General Assembly. From what I could tell, his heart was always in the right place and he tried to do what was best for Kentucky, regardless of what party was trying to make hay out of the issue.
What am I missing here? Usually the GOP is the party with respect for established rules and law. If the Kentucky Constitution really has those provisions, how can they in good conscience seat this guy?
--- I hope there is a state supreme court that will uphold the state Constitution---in Nevada we had one that wouldn't--
as a Republican I hate it when our party of law and order seems to think that we don't have to follow the rules. Sometimes we can be too pompous beyond belief
How was she allowed on the ballot in the first place?
Watch them. Section 32, Kentucky Constitution:
"No person shall be a Representative who, at the time of his election, is not a citizen of Kentucky, has not attained the age of twenty-four years, and who has not resided in this State two years next preceding his election, and the last year thereof in the county, town or city for which he may be chosen. No person shall be a Senator who, at the time of his election, is not a citizen of Kentucky, has not attained the age of thirty years, and has not resided in this State six years next preceding his election, and the last year thereof in the district for which he may be chosen."
This is just plain stupid. We look in wonder at the crass illegality of Democrat actions in places like King County, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and then the Kentucky Republicans pull this stunt and show themselves to be no better.
Can somebody in KY explain why this is a good thing?
This is absolutely ridiculous. This person shouldn't have been allowed to run in the first place.
WAIT A MINUTE!!!! I just read part of this article again and it is COMPLETELY wrong!!!! Dana Seum Stephenson is not underage. She's in her early 30's. 30 is what is required. That has NEVER been an issue in this debacle. The only issue is her residency!!!!
I agree. Why do they feel above the law?
We've always prided ourselves as the party of rules and laws.
This definitely gives the Kentucky GOP a black eye at a point when they're stilling growing into majority status.
How the hell did this person get on the ballot anyway?!
We have a SCOTUS that I'm not too sure about, either.
Here's the difference between us and the 'Rats. When one of our own pulls a stunt like this, we condemn it and often run the perp or perps right out of office and the party. For example, we ran Nixon out in 1974 -- had the Republicans in the Senate taken the 'Rats attitude w/ Bubba, Nixon would have served out his term. The 'Rats, on the other hand, think stunts like Lautencadaver substituting for the Torch is just ducky.
I am afraid the Republicans in Kentucky will pay for this crap. It's outrageous. Anyone calling themselves a Republican who openly disdains the Law is a true RINO IMHO.
AP: OOPS! Did we make a mistake? Duly noted. We'll print a retraction on our web site in the restricted area.
Well, the only issue in this whole matter, despite what the article says, is the issue of residency. And, it actually is a tricky issue.
Dana lived in Kentucky before moving across the Ohio River to Indiana for school. Despite living in Indiana and voting there, she kept her house in Kentucky and spent quite a bit of time there as well. Her argument has been one of dual residency.
Personally, I don't believe she was eligible. But I don't believe the Democrat should win either, because she didn't receive the majority of votes. I believe the most fair thing to do was what Senator Leeper suggested, and have a special election. Case law is ambiguous, but if it leans one way, it would probably lean towards Dana.
It really isn't as bad as this article makes it sound.
You're right. Nor is it incumbent upon them to do so in Kentucky. The burden is for someone else to question the eligibility in court.
maybe you're right but how do you find that in the article?
Like most political entities, they do this when it's to their advantage. Similar to GOP once criticizing excessive government spending.
Responsible people should demand adherence to the law--
The second sentence of the second paragraph in the article above says she is only 23.
weird ... I searched on Google and this is the only article that says she's 23. even her opponent (who went to court over the residency issue) never mentioned her age. So I guess the article is just wrong but what an odd thing to invent.
On the residency side it looks like the article is right, although I wonder if perhaps she had been a resident of Kentucky in the past and the argument is over whether residency must be continuous for 6 years?
I'm afraid that is exactly what the public perception is going to be. Honestly, I think the Senate was well within the law to seat Dana. I'm not sure it was the best decision though.
And, well we all know, in politics, perception is reality.
Is the filing date in the Kentucky Constitution? If so, then both parties are equally wrong. But I doubt it. If not, then the Dems did something sneaky and the GOP did something that is just plain wrong.
In the second paragraph it reads, "Also, Stephenson is 23, and the constitution says senators be at least 30." I've been keeping close tabs on this story and actually know Ms. Stephenson. She's in her thirties, not 23. I don't know what Chellgren was smoking when he wrote this one.
Yeah, that's the part that is not true. I promise you Dana is in her thirties and this has NEVER been an issue. I know Dana and have been following this whole debacle closely.
Okay, evidently Chellgren goofed up with original article or it was altered slightly. Click on the actual link at the top of the story to go to the AP site. You'll see that it says that Dana is 33 years old.
By MARK R. CHELLGREN, Associated Press WriterKentucky Senate Seats Disputed Candidate 27 minutes ago
FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Republican candidate in a disputed election was sworn in Friday as the newest member of the Kentucky Senate, even though a judge ruled she did not meet the state's residency requirements. One GOP senator threatened to resign in protest.
Dana Seum Stephenson, 33, lived in Indiana from 1997 to 2000, but the Kentucky Constitution requires that senators live in the state for at least six years before taking office.
Senate President David Williams said he was confident the Senate had the power to determine its own membership. He said, for example, that the Senate could have a 23-year-old lawmaker, even though the constitution says senators must be at least 30.
"Living Constitution! Living Constitution!"
Just a "slight" correction. I'm sure it has already become plank over at DU
Trust me, Mark Chellgren is a complete moron (I've had some dealings with him). If you ever saw Dana, it would be clear that she is not 23 years old.
Dana Seum Stephenson was elected. Her eligibility was questioned. Since she was actually elected, the Senate was the one charged with determining her eligibility, not the courts. The courts would have been charged with determining it prior to the election.
Yeah, he "goofed".
A "mistake" would be if he had just put a 2 instead of a 3 by accident when giving her age.
But not only does the article say she is 23, it goes on to say that senators have to be at least 30. Who told this reporter that her age was even an issue? Did he look up the constitutional requirements himself?
That subject was brought up, but it's pretty well understood that the 6 years have to be the 6 years immediately preceeding the election. The big question in this case surrounded dual-residency. If she had dual-residency, wouldn't that count for the 6 year requirement?
This sounds like a circular argument. Maybe I'm just slow late on a Friday afternoon, but if someone is actually elected, then what does the Senate need to decide? And who decides what "actually elected" is, anyway? The Senate? A Court? Phyllis George?
Not really as weird as it is moronic. But, hey, that's Mark Chellgren. It would be great if he would lose his job over this, but that will never happen. Especially when his brother is the CEO of Ashland Oil, one of the largest companies in Kentucky.
How can you say that when the Constitutional provision is so clear? Saying "it's up to the Senate to decide what the Constitution means" and then letting them decide something which is the opposite of what the Constitution says is wrong. That's exactly what the liberal judges do with the US Constitution. Even if the US Constituion gave the Supreme Court the sole authority to interpret the Constitution, Roe v. Wade would still be wrong.
I think it would make more sense with some of the facts of this case:
1) Virginia Woodward filed suit over Stephenson's residency status the weekend before the election.
2) Absentee voting had already started taking place.
3) People went ahead and voted on the race on Election Day. Dana Stephenson won.
4) The judge ruled weeks later that Dana was ineligible.
5) Since Dana had already won the election numberwise, the Senate was the body to rule on her eligibility, not the courts.
6) Phyllis George no longer lives here, thank God. Last I knew, she was a New Yorker.
Why are Republicans acting like Democrats?
My opinion is that Dana was not a resident of Kentucky in those years in question. However, she did make a compelling argument that she had dual-residency. The Republicans in the Senate argued that as well and enough of them bought it. If she did have dual-residency, that may not be unconstitutional.
It's a little more complex than that. They don't feel above the law, but feel that the constitution would allow for dual-residency, even though that is not mentioned. The Democrats argued she was an Indiana resident, the Republicans argued she had dual residency in Kentucky and Indiana. Both sides had strong points to back up their views.
Well, that may or may not be true. If she did have dual-residency, she probably was well within her right to run. But, even if she didn't, Virginia Woodward should have filed suit long before voting actually began, and probably even before they were certified as the nominees after the primaries.
OTOH, I also think Ms. Stephenson should have known better than to change her voting address to Indiana while in school; if she had any political ambition she should have been well aware of the state Constitution, and under the circumstances she should have waited another four years to run for the Senate. If she had retained her voting priveleges in Kentucky, there would never have been a question about her prior residency. So I would not feel much sympathy for her if her election were voided.
Nobody comes out of this one smelling like a rose.
Well, I don't think they will either. There have been similar cases in Kentucky and the court has not overturned. And, across the nation there have been cases even more similar to this one, and the courts didn't overrule the body's ability to determine their own membership either.
Determining qualifications for office should be done well before the election. Maybe Kentucky and other jurisdictions should set up a process for this. Certainly, waiting until the weekend before the election is bogus, particularly since the residency issue was not clear-cut.
As an example of a potential problem, George Romney ran for President in 1968, but he was born outside the USA to American parents. If he had won the nomination, then won the election but was challenged either right before or right after Election Day on the grounds that he wasn't "natural-born", and then the 'Rat House and Senate throw out his EVs and declare Humphrey the winner ... what then?
Actually, it wasn't the Democrats that challenged Hunter Bates' residency. Officially, it was a college student at the University of Louisville. However, he was a pawn of Steve Nunn's campaign for Governor. Nunn was a candidate in the Republican primary. Bob Heleringer, Nunn's runningmate, even joined the suit to act as one of this kid's attorneys.
I also think Ms. Stephenson should have known better than to change her voting address to Indiana while in school . . .
If she had retained her voting priveleges in Kentucky, there would never have been a question about her prior residency.
Actually, there might have still been questions. After all Hunter Bates owned a home in Kentucky and had always voted in Kentucky. He was only in Washington to serve as Senator McConnell's Chief of Staff.