After an early morning hearing, Jefferson Circuit Judge Charles Cunningham ruled Metro Councilman Deonte Hollowell, Ind.-6, qualifies to be a candidate on the ballot and can seek re-election for the seat on November 2. The first independent to serve on the city’s legislative body, Hollowell was appointed by the council to replace the late George Unseld, who died suddenly in June.
The suit was brought by William Clark, a registered Democrat and 6th District resident who alleged that Hollowell, a University of Louisville professor, did not have enough signatures from registered voters in the district in his petition that he submitted to the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office.
During the court proceedings, attorneys on both sides argued over whether a council candidate is required to file a petition with 20 signatures, or two.
“This is really bizarre,” Cunningham said. “That statute is subject to two reasonable interpretations, and I’m required to select the interpretation that provides voters with the most choice.”
In the upcoming general election, Hollowell faces three opponents who are also vying for the seat: Democrat David James, Republican Candace Jaworksi and write-in candddate Ken Herndon.
Leading up to the hearing, political observers speculated that Democratic Party operatives were behind the lawsuit to push Hollowell out of the race, in part because the attorney who brought the case forward on Clark’s behalf is Jennifer Moore, the former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairwoman who was named the party’s legal counsel prior to taking the case. In interviews with LEO, KDP officials denied that Moore was working on the party’s behalf.
“It’s the politics of politics,” says Derwin Webb, Hollowell’s attorney. “During the political season a lot of things come up over challenges on residency or whatever. We know that he’s been barraged with some things and we don’t expect this to be the last thing.”
When asked about who brought Hollowell’s petition to her attention, Moore would not comment and said her client was also unavailable for comment. She did tell LEO that it is unclear if they will appeal the judges ruling. They have five days to do so.
“We believe the statute is very clear and is also clear to the board of elections. They gave (Councilman Hollowell) indications that only two signatures were needed and he got them,” says Webb.