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Judge rules Louisville Rep. Nima Kulkarni not disqualified as candidate

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.

A judge denied a petition Thursday that sought to disqualify Democratic state Rep. Nima Kulkarni’s candidacy over a filing error.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry ruled that although one of the signatories to Kulkarni’s candidacy filing was a registered Republican at the time, she quickly changed her registration to Democrat before the Kentucky secretary of state’s office certified the candidates in the race.

The petition to disqualify Kulkarni as a candidate and kick her off the ballot was filed 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.

Horlander’s petition pointed out that Sharon LaRue, one of the nomination signatories for Kulkarni’s candidacy filing in early January, was a registered Republican at the time, countering the requirement candidates for primary elections have the signatures of two residents in that district who are in the same party.

However, Judge Perry’s order denying the petition ruled that it “fails to establish the heavy burden required to disqualify a candidate from the ballot.”

“While it is true that Ms. Kulkarni should have been more diligent in preparing the paperwork, she also took immediate action to correct the issue when she learned of it,” Perry wrote.

Perry added that it was notable LaRue changed her registration by Jan. 8, well ahead of the secretary of state’s certification of the candidates on Jan. 17.

The opinion and order of Perry also stated that he “cannot justify interfering in the electoral process on the inadequate grounds presented here.”

Steven Megerle, the attorney for Horlander, told Kentucky Public Radio he had already filed an appeal of the ruling. He said the ruling was “erroneous” and “upends over a century of closed primaries in Kentucky.”

“What this decision means is that Republicans can now get together and nominate a Democrat in Democratic primaries, and then switch parties back to Republicans,” Megerle said. “And likewise, Democrats.”

Megerle said he’s confident the case will be expedited in the appeals process, with the primary election less than four weeks away.

Kulkarni told Kentucky Public Radio she is “very confident” the ruling will hold up during the appeals process.

“It was the right decision based on our arguments, and it's the right decision for the voters of District 40,” Kulkarni said. “I look forward to a vigorous campaign before the primary day.”

Kulkarni previously stated that Horlander’s lawsuit was "a desperate attempt by my former opponent" to disenfranchise her constituents.

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%.

Our state government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Joe is Kentucky Public Radio's enterprise statehouse reporter. Email Joe at