Judge Weighing Whether Kentucky Senate Candidate Meets Residency Requirement

Oct 27, 2012

A Jefferson County Circuit judge on Friday expressed concerns that a Republican state Senate candidate from south Louisville previously swore that he lived at a motel he owned in 2011, but filed to run for office under a different address in another district in 2012.

Judge Charles Cunningham Jr. said during a hearing that businessman Chris Thieneman's use of the motel address on a sworn statement in November 2011 could result in his being disqualified from using the address of an apartment at a storage business he owns to run for office this year.

"Is he stopped from asserting a year later he lives somewhere else?" Cunningham asked.

Louisville resident Robert Walker II contends Thieneman hasn't lived in the 37th District long enough to be a bona fide candidate. Walker asked that Thieneman's name be removed from the ballot or that votes cast for him not be counted.

Thieneman is running against Democratic state Sen. Perry Clark in the Louisville district. In a similar challenge before the May primary election, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mitch Perry ruled that Thieneman is a resident of the 37th District.

Cunningham gave attorneys in the case until Monday night to file briefs on the issue and scheduled oral arguments for 1 p.m. Thursday.

The central issue is Thieneman's use of the motel address in the 10th Senate district to vote in the November 2011 election, which featured the governor's race. Voters in Kentucky can change their address up to 29 days before an election and still be listed on the voter rolls at a new precinct. Candidates must live in the district from which they are running at least one year prior to election day.

Cunningham asked the attorneys to focus on the use of the motel address to vote in 2011 and the use of his storage unit business in 2012 to run for office.

Thieneman, who has previously run for Congress, county clerk and Louisville mayor, testified Friday that he moved into the motel for a few days while the "manager's apartment" at Fort Locks, a storage unit facility he owns, was being renovated.

Thieneman said he moved into the apartment, which is in the 37th Senate district, in late September 2011, but didn't change his driver's license and voter registration to that address on Dixie Highway in south Louisville until early 2012.

When the 2011 election came around, Thienemen said he went to the nearest polling place--a nearby church--to ask what to do and was told by poll workers that, because he spent the night before the election in the motel, he could vote there. So, Thieneman said, he signed the sworn statement listing his address as the motel.

"I had no idea where to vote and I went to the place I was familiar with," Thieneman said.