Senate Seat Still In Question

By Dina Kaplan

(LOUISVILLE, December 2nd, 2004, 11:30 p.m.) -- The president of the State Senate tells WAVE 3 News he may decline to swear in Dana Seum Stephenson or her opponent, Virginia Woodward, when the Senate convenes early next year. WAVE 3's Dina Kaplan has more on the on-going controversy.

Weeks after the election a State Senate seat is still in question. Senate President David Williams says he may not swear in Democrat Virginia Woodward or Republican Dana Seum Stephenson.

"There's a possibility the legislature could find that neither one of them are qualified and declare a vacancy," Williams said.

Although Stephenson won more votes than Woodward in the last election, a judge last month agreed with Woodward that Stephenson didn't satisfy a constitutional requirement that candidates live in the district in which they're running for at least six years prior to the election.

In an exclusive interview with WAVE 3 News, Stephenson's attorney, Jim Milliman, says he's not concerned with the judge's ruling, and did not even file an appeal. Instead, he will file an election challenge in the Senate.

Because the Kentucky Constitution says "each House shall judge the qualifications of its members," Stephenson and her attorney believe only the Senate can judge her qualifications.

Republican Senate President David Williams agrees. "The appropriate place to decide a contested election contest is the Senate."

The Senate has decided three contested elections in the past half-century. Statutory law calls for five to nine senators, selected by lottery, to in essence hold a mini-trial.

But Woodward's attorney, Jennifer Moore, says the judge's ruling should stand. She points to another section of the Constitution that she claims gives the courts authority to decide who can serve in the state senate.

"I would be surprised and extremely disappointed if the State Senate -- and in particular State Senator David Williams -- chose to ignore the Kentucky Constitution, and chose to ignore this judge's ruling that they did not appeal."

There will be a flurry of legal filings in this case before January. If this matter is left up to the Senate, there is one interesting possibility: the Senate could decide Stephenson is ineligible because she doesn't meet the residency requirement.

Woodward also could be ruled ineligible because she didn't win the election. In that case, Gov. Ernie Fletcher would be allowed to call for a special election, and someone else entirely could end up serving as Louisville's newest State Senator.

Online Reporter: Dina Kaplan

Online Producer: Michael Dever