FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Democrat elected to Kentucky's House of Representatives by a one-vote margin is preparing for a potential confrontation with the GOP-controlled legislature on Tuesday as he tries to take his seat amid an ongoing election challenge.
Jim Glenn said he plans to show up for work Tuesday when the Kentucky House of Representatives gavels in for the first time in 2019. But Republican DJ Johnson, who lost to Glenn, has asked the House to oversee a recount. Glenn and his attorney, Anna Whites, said Republican leaders have refused to say if they will allow Glenn to take his seat Tuesday.
"The citizens of Owensboro have a right to have continuous representation. They have a right to make sure that their issues are being heard by their local representative," Glenn said.
House GOP spokeswoman Laura Leigh Goins would not say whether GOP leaders would allow for Glenn to take his seat.
"The House Majority Caucus will address issues regarding this election contest in a legal, ethical and appropriate manner," Goins said. "We will continue to follow the requirements of the Kentucky Constitution and statutes as they apply to contested House seats."
Glenn's fate is likely to dominate the first few days of the 2019 legislative session, a time usually reserved for lawmakers to organize themselves before returning to Frankfort in February to consider legislation. Democrats control 39 of the chamber's 100 seats, so it is unlikely they will be able to stop the Republican majority if it decides not to seat Glenn. On Monday, a joint statement by the House's top three Democratic leaders said refusing to seat Glenn "would undermine our democracy and cause long-lasting damage to the House of Representatives."
The drama surrounding Kentucky's 13th House district isn't the only still unresolved contest from 2018 that continues to garner attention.
In a different electoral situation in North Carolina, a Republican has not been seated by the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives over concerns about ballot tampering.
Glenn got 6,319 votes on election day while Johnson got 6,318 votes. A recanvas by local election officials, a process to double check the totals from voting machines, did not change the results. The Kentucky State Board of Elections later certified Glenn as the winner.
But Johnson has asked for a recount. He said local election officials should have disqualified six ballots because voters did not sign the precinct voter roster, as required by law. He also said election officials should not have rejected 17 absentee ballots.
Under state law, the House of Representatives is the only entity that can oversee a recount for its members. The law requires the House to appoint a board of between six and nine members to oversee the recount. But any findings from the board must be approved by the full House of Representatives.
Johnson said he plans to be in Frankfort on Tuesday and could watch the proceedings from the gallery. He said he is not opposed to Glenn taking his seat, but said GOP leaders have not told him what they plan to do. He said taxpayers are not paying for his lawyer, adding the Republican Party of Kentucky Party of Kentucky is helping cover his expenses. While Republicans control 61 of the 100 House seats, Johnson said he is confident he won't get special treatment because of his party affiliation.
"I have faith in the fact when it comes to the electoral process, legislators are going to do the right thing," he said.
Despite the uncertainty, Glenn said he has been given a specific seat on the House floor and three committee assignments. He had a local judge swear him into office on Jan. 2 in Owensboro, a common practice for some lawmakers so family and friends can attend the ceremony without traveling to the state Capitol in Frankfort. But for Glenn, the swearing-in had a dual purpose.
"We wanted to make sure everybody was aware I was sworn in," he said.