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Residents challenge eligibility of Ky. House candidates

According to the paperwork, which was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court on March 29, Sylvia Wright and Christa Robinson don't believe Dre Dawson and Phil Baker live where they say they do.
Phil Baker and Dre Dawson

LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- Two candidates vying to become the next representative in Kentucky's House District 43 will have to prove to a Jefferson County judge they are eligible to run for the seat after residents in the district filed paperwork challenging the candidates' residency.

According to the paperwork, which was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court on March 29, Sylvia Wright and Christa Robinson don't believe Dre Dawson and Phil Baker live in the district they want to represent.

The paperwork claims Robinson visited the address listed on Baker's candidate filing paperwork twice in February. She said the Shawnee neighborhood home did not look as though anyone was living there.

"It was in a state of disrepair and ruins as a result of age and/or neglect," an attorney for the women wrote in the challenge. "There were windows boarded up and no signs of occupancy."

According to Baker's Voter Registration Update paperwork, Baker changed his residential address to reflect the Shawnee address on Nov. 9. That date narrowly misses the 1-year requirement for a candidate to live in the district where they are running.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Baker said he was not aware of the challenge, but dismissed it as dirty politics. He said he moved into the home Sept. 1 and welcomed the opportunity to put the issue to rest in front of a judge.

"We have to go to court and I look forward to it," Baker said. "I have all the receipts and I'll be able to prove it."

Baker also said he held an event in the home in the past week. Photos posted to Baker's Facebook page on March 29 appear to support Baker's claim he is living in the home. Some of the pictures show Baker with others outside the home and inside the home surrounded by family photos and other furnishings.

The challenge also took aim at Dawson's candidate filing which lists a home address which is not in District 43. An email, which was attached to his filing, from Dawson to the Secretary of State's office asked the office to "update the error" of his personal address to an address that is within the district.

"My staff inadvertently used my old address as my filing address," Dawson wrote.

Secretary of State Spokesperson Bradford Queen said an email was not sufficient to update a candidate's information. Queen said Dawson would have had to amend the paperwork in person or withdraw his candidacy, then refile the proper paperwork.

A man who answered a phone number listed for Dawson did not identify himself but said he would pass along the message seeking comment from Dawson on the issue.

"When I tell you they wanted me to quit, the setup was real. We'll appeal with Secretary of State, my name will go on the ballot, if not this time then the next," read a message on Dawson's campaign Facebook page. The post was attached to a Courier-Journal article which first raised the residency issue on March 8.

In the Courier-Journal report, Dawson said he was told by someone in the Secretary of State's office an email was enough to correct the mistake.

"If I had been told different, I would have gone up to Frankfort," he told reporter Phillip Bailey.

A Jefferson County clerk's spokesperson said no hearing date was listed for the challenge to be heard by Circuit Judge Mary Shaw.

The primary is scheduled for May 22.

There are currently nine people running for the seat which is being vacated by Rep. Darryl Owens retirement at the end of the current term.

This story will be updated.

Investigative Producer Andrea Ash contributed to this story.

►Contact reporter Derrick Rose at dnrose@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@WHAS11DRose) and Facebook.