Gunasekara appeals ballot ruling to state Supreme Court
Northern District Public Service Commissioner candidate Mandy Gunasekara has officially appealed a judge’s ruling that would keep her off the August primary election ballot to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Gunasekara filed the appeal on Thursday. She posted on social media that her fight is continuing.
Gunasekara, a former Environmental Protection Agency Special Advisor and Chief of Staff in the Donald Trump administration, had her residency qualifications originally challenged by Hernando attorney Matthew Barton, himself a Republican candidate for DeSoto County District Attorney.
Barton’s claim is that Gunasekara, with her work in Washington, D.C., did not reach the five-year residency requirement to be placed on the primary ballot against two other opponents. A candidate must have lived in Mississippi for five years ahead of election day.
Barton’s challenge was originally dismissed when brought to the Republican Party Executive Committee, but he appealed that decision to special appointed judge Lamar Pickard, who ruled that Gunasekara had not established Mississippi residency by Nov. 7, 2018, five years ahead of the date of the general election in 2023.
Gunasekara claims that, even though she worked in Washington, her residence has always remained in Mississippi, Oxford in particular. She says she is still on the ballot and actually appeared with her two other Republican opponents, Chris Brown and Tanner Newman, at a recent DeSoto County Republican Club meeting in Southaven.
Barton also claims his opponent, current District Attorney Robert ‘Bob’ Morris, would not reach the five-year requirement if Morris chose to run for re-election in 2027. Morris is eligible for the ballot in the 2023 election, having been grandfathered in because of his appointment by Gov. Tate Reeves last September after the death of John Champion.
Morris moved to Hernando from Batesville when he was appointed and says the move meets the requirement for residency in DeSoto County, making him eligible if he chooses to run for re-election in four years.
A date for the Supreme Court to hear the appeal was not immediately set. The seat on the Public Service Commission is open with Democrat Brandon Presley’s candidacy for Governor.