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Judge: Libertarian Can Stay on Ballot to Challenge Kenton County Clerk

There will be a contested race for Kenton County Clerk in November after Judge Gregory Bartlett allowed Libertarian Christopher Robinson to remain on the ballot to challenge incumbent Republican Gabrielle Summe.

Robinson's status as a resident of Kentucky and Kenton County and the amount of time that he has officially lived here was challenged by Summe. State law requires candidates for county clerk to have lived in Kentucky for two years and in the county where the election is taking place for one year.

Both Summe and Robinson took the stand in a Kenton County courtroom on Friday afternoon. 

Ed Lanter, an attorney for Summe, argued that Robinson only got a Kentucky driver's license in January of this year, maintaining one from Virginia prior to that. When Robinson and his wife purchased their home on Banklick Street through a federal program managed by the City of Covington, he listed his address as that of his grandmother's home in Cincinnati. That was in October of 2013. The Robinsons' vehicle had Virginia plates as recently as May.

All of these signs, Lanter argued, indicate that Robinson does not meet the residency requirements to seek the office.

To the contrary, Robinson and his attorney Sharif Abdrabbo countered. Robinson did not have a driver's license until January of this year because he has not driven a car since moving to Kentucky in 2012. His wife stayed behind in Virginia where their son was finishing high school. Robinson, an 11-year veteran of the US Navy, said it was not uncommon for he and his wife to live separately over the years. The vehicle with Virginia tags belonged solely to his wife, Robinson argued. And while the address listed on the application to acquire a city loan for his Banklick Street home was that of his grandmother's, Robinson said that he only lived there for two months when he first arrived in the area. He had lived on Main Street from May 2012 until October 2013 when he and his wife bought their new home.

Why not put the Main Street address on the application as his current home? He didn't read it over carefully, Robinson said on the stand. "I was too excited about being a first-time homeowner," he said.

When Robinson submitted a letter of intent to file as a candidate in March, Summe went into campaign mode. She visited his Robinson's home and discovered the Virginia license plates, she got the records of the loan from Covington City Hall and saw the Cincinnati address, and she hired a private investigator to locate the home that he and his wife shared in Virginia Beach.

Abdrabbo asked her if that was typical work for a county clerk. "I didn't do it as county clerk," Summe said. "I did it as a candidate on a candidate who was running against me."

She was unable to get records on whether Robinson was registered to vote or if he voted in Virginia because that state does not answer requests from those outside the state. Summe's brother-in-law's nephew does live in Virginia and filed an open records request and discovered that Robinson had registered to vote there in 2008, though the information was struck from the testimony as hearsay. Robinson did admit later that he registered to vote in 2008 but never cast a ballot.

He registered to vote in Kentucky for the first time in January of this year.

To bolster his case, Robinson brought in his former landlord who would attest to his having rented on Main Street and also Ken Moellman, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Kentucky. Robinson moved to the area and moved to Main Street after taking a job with the Internal Revenue Service in Covington. His wife now lives with him full-time on Banklick Street and their son is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Editor's note: Michael Monks covered the court proceedings for RCN but had to leave before the Judge Bartlett made his decision. Summe and Moellman confirmed that Robinson was permitted to stay on the ballot, but the nature of Bartlett's ruling is not yet available here.

"I'm looking forward to campaigning again," Summe said.

There is no Democratic candidate in the race.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Summe, Lanter, Abdrabbo, and Robinson during a break in Kenton County Circuit Court on Friday/RCN