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Lawsuit seeks to kick Louisville Democratic state Rep. Nima Kulkarni off ballot

 Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, asks a question about House Bill 47, an act related to religious liberty on Feb. 21, 2024.
LRC Public Info
Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, asks a question about House Bill 47, an act related to religious liberty on Feb. 21, 2024.

The petition to remove Kulkarni from the ballot was filed by the former state legislator she defeated in a Democratic primary in 2018, alleging she should be disqualified for a filing error involving her nomination signatories.

A lawsuit was filed Monday against Democratic state Rep. Nima Kulkarni of Louisville seeking to remove her from the ballot this year, alleging an error on her candidacy filing makes her ineligible to run.

The petition to disqualify her was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court by Dennis Horlander, the former Democratic state legislator who served for more than two decades in Louisville before he was defeated in the 2018 primary by Kulkarni.

Kulkarni told Kentucky Public Radio in a statement that the lawsuit is meritless and "a desperate attempt by my former opponent" to "try and force our courts to influence our elections and take away the rights of the voters in the 40th district to choose their own representation."

"Voters have overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Horlander at the ballot box, and I am sure a court will do the same," said Kulkarni, who added the petition tries to "use an outdated technicality."

According to Horlander’s petition, Kulkarni’s candidacy filing with the secretary of state’s office in January is deficient because it lacks the statutorily required two nomination signatures of registered members of the Democratic Party who are eligible to vote in that party’s primary.

One of those signatories is Sharon LaRue, who records from the Jefferson County Clerk’s office show had been a registered Republican since at least 1998 up until she signed Kulkarni’s form on Dec. 22 last year.

LaRue was still a Republican when Kulkarni filed her candidacy notification and declaration form on Jan. 2, but only changed her party affiliation to Democrat on Jan. 8 — past the Dec. 31 deadline to be eligible to vote in the party’s May 2024 primary. The deadline for candidates to file for the Democratic or Republican primary was Jan. 5, and such forms cannot be amended and refiled after that date.

In a statement about his petition, Horlander said Kulkarni “violated the most basic of campaign compliance laws by not obtaining the required signatures from two Democrats in her district when she filed her nomination petition.”

“The 40th House District deserves a representative who adheres to all campaign compliance and finance laws,” Horlander stated. “Fair and honest elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and particularly elected officials, must follow the letter of the law.”

Horlander’s petition asks the court to find Kulkarni’s candidate filing deficient and issue an injunction forcing county and state elections to not print her name on any ballots for her House District 40 primary race and not count any votes cast for her.

The only other candidate to file for the District 40 race was William Zeitz, a Democrat from Louisville. He filed for office on Jan. 5, hours before the deadline. Zeitz did not immediately respond to a voicemail asking about the lawsuit.

Horlander’s attorney on the petition is Steven Megerle, a former Republican city commissioner in Covington.

In her statement, Kulkarni said Horlander's petition is meritless and she is "confident that the law and legislative intent are on our side," adding that she "will not stand back as he tries to use an outdated technicality to disenfranchise voters."

"At the time of certification by the Secretary of State, and of this court challenge, I have had two registered Democrats on my filing papers," Kulkarni said. "Any issue was resolved before certification, as the courts require."

The secretary of state's office says they certified all candidacies on Jan. 17, nine days after LaRue because a registered Democrat.

Horlander, known as a socially conservative legislator, was unseated in 2018 after Kulkarni defeated him by a 21-point margin in the Democratic primary that May. Horlander sought a rematch in the 2020 primary, but lost in an even larger rout, receiving 21% to Kulkarni’s 78%.

Joe is the enterprise statehouse reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email Joe at