Lawmaker’s seat likely to be filled by special election

December 16, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A special election will likely be held to fill the seat held by a Republican Kentucky lawmaker who killed himself following sexual assault allegations.

Dan Johnson was a Republican member of the Kentucky Legislature from the 49th district, which includes portions of Bullitt County just south of Louisville. Johnson was first elected in 2016 and was halfway through his first term in office.

On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published detailed accusations that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl in the basement of his home. Police investigated, but eventually closed the case without filing charges. The reporting center’s story prompted police to re-open the case.

Johnson killed himself one day after calling a news conference at his church, where he called the allegations “totally false” and said he would not resign. His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in Louisville.

State law requires the seat to be filled by a special election, according to Bradford Queen, spokesman for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the state’s chief election official. The governor orders the election if the Legislature is not in session. The presiding officer of the House orders the election if the Legislature is in session.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not yet called for a special election. State law gives him no timeline to do so. The Kentucky General Assembly is scheduled to convene again on Jan. 2.

Once the special election is called, it must be held no sooner than 56 days from when the election was called. Unlike the general election, there is no primary. Only one Republican candidate and one Democratic candidate can be on the ballot. Those people are chosen by their respective political parties, who must nominate them no later than 49 days before the election.

Anyone else who wants to be on the ballot must submit a petition signed by at least 100 voters.

The winner’s term in office will be short, just a few months before the next general election in November 2018.

The special election will not determine the political power in the state House of Representatives because Republicans already have 63 out of 100 seats.

But it is important to fill the seat quickly for the people of the 49th district. Over the next three months, lawmakers will decide how to spend taxpayer money over the next two years and could decide to make major changes to the state’s pension system for state workers, police officers, firefighters and public school teachers.

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