The final result in the 13th District election challenge ended Friday as unexpectedly as it began. In an address to the House committee overseeing the election contest, DJ Johnson withdrew his challenge, leaving seated Jim Glenn as the 13th District representative.
Johnson proposed a coin toss to determine the winner of the seat after a a full recount conducted by the Daviess County Clerk’s Office last Saturday determined the race to be a tie.
“A coin toss takes the process of electing someone to the 13th District out of the hands of the people, but it was the best option I could see,” Johnson said, adding that he did not support the alternative, a special election, which would put his constituents through more distractions.
Glenn’s attorney Anna Stewart Whites said her client was not willing to give up his seat to a coin toss and told the committee he would not accept that decision and was prepared to take further legal steps should that be their recommendation.
“You can’t impeach a seated legislator with a coin toss,” Whites said, adding that a coin toss is not written in the law in the event of a tie during an election contest. According to Whites, Kentucky law states that a winner will be decided by drawing lots, but officials are unsure of what that actually means.
Johnson’s attorneys proposed the coin toss prior to his withdrawing the challenge.
“We could have had a civil resolution to this,” Johnson said. “I am disappointed that we couldn’t do something the House board authorized, but it takes both sides.”
Whites argued to the committee Friday that Johnson’s attorneys violated the recount process by interfering with the decision making of the Daviess County Board of Elections. She said, not only did they intimidate the clerk’s staff conducting the recount, but they also questioned a decision made by the board of election on a ballot.
“When an elected official and high-powered attorneys are looking at these people who are spending a 12-hour day in a cold warehouse counting votes because we want them to… it’s scary,” Whites said.
Johnson denied the interference and said these claims insinuated wrongdoing on his part, but also implied a “negative tone” toward Daviess County officials involved in the recount.
“They were not just attacking me, but the full board of elections for Daviess County,” Johnson said.
Daviess County chief deputy clerk Richard House said he and his office felt pressure during the recount and felt the process to be intimidating, but only in trying to ensure accuracy.
“We never felt pressure to make a decision either way,” House said. “ It was intimidating, but not by either side, just the process.”
House, along with County Attorney Claud Porter and Major Barry Smith with Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, all traveled to Frankfort to testify before the election contest committee Friday. They were requested to give testimony after Whites filed a motion with the committee regarding the alleged interference. But before any of the three could testify, Johnson withdrew the challenge.
Whites also claimed that the recount was an attempt by the Republican Party of Kentucky (RPK) to “pay for the seat.” According to Whites, RPK reached out to candidates and clerks across the state asking if they wished to file a suit with potential election counting errors.
Johnson said this did not occur in the 13th District.
“This recount was solely my decision,” Johnson said. “They agreed to support me, but they in no way influenced my decision.”
While addressing the committee in Frankfort Friday, Johnson said there was no true winner for the 13th District.
“What I want to make sure does not happen from here forward is that the Daviess County residents become the loser in this process and I’m afraid that’s what may be happening,” Johnson told the committee.
“If we do a coin toss, and I should win, we are going to go into a legal circus in my hometown like we have never seen before,” Johnson said. “Based on the actions of Mr. Glenn and his counsel, I can only assume, the board of elections, the sheriff’s office, anybody that might have done something that didn’t agree with political aspirations of my opponent would be challenged in court. I will not put my district through that. I will not put my community through that. They deserve better.”
Jim Glenn, who was in Frankfort for the committee hearing, said he is ready to get back to serving Owensboro.
“The committee closed the session, which means for the next two years I’m in the seat, where I will continue to focus on education and business, which are the things I know best,” Glenn told Owensboro Times.
With the election challenge behind him, Glenn said he can now focus more on the legislatives bills before the House.
“I am working on a business bill now to get more businesses to locate to Owensboro,” Glenn said. “I will continue to work on that over the next two years.”