Linda Belcher was elected as the new state representative for the 49th District Tuesday in a special election in Bullitt County.
Belcher will regain the seat she lost in 2016 to Dan Johnson, a first-term lawmaker who died by suicide on Dec. 13.
His death followed the release of a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting story, which included an accusation of sexual assault by a teenage church member and detailed numerous exaggerations about his life story.
Belcher won with about 68 percent of the vote to Rebecca Johnson’s roughly 32 percent, according to the county clerk’s office.
“I can’t tell you how good this feels,” Belcher said at a celebration Tuesday night. “I want to thank the people of Bullitt County. There are Republicans, there are Democrats, there are all kinds of people who have said, ‘We want you to run and win.’ I want to thank all those people.”
The 49th District turnout was far lower than the 63 percent of Bullitt County voters that turned out in the last general election.
About 5,000 people voted Tuesday. The district has 31,000 registered voters.
Rebecca Johnson, Dan Johnson’s wife, announced her intention to run for the seat the day after Johnson’s death. It was the first run for office for the longtime co-pastor at the Heart of Fire Church. Her campaign representatives declined to comment Tuesday night.
Belcher held the statehouse seat for six years before losing to Dan Johnson in the 2016 election.
Belcher will finish Dan Johnson’s term, which expires at the end of the year.
Both Belcher and Rebecca Johnson have already registered to run for the next term. A primary will be held in May.
Confusion At The Polls
On her Facebook page shortly after the official results were released, Rebecca Johnson alleged voter fraud and asked anyone who had trouble voting or any poll workers who saw “discrepancies” to contact the Bullitt County GOP.
Bullitt County Clerk Kevin Mooney said rumors were swirling all day, but in fact, there was only a minor issue at one precinct. Residents of five streets were told to go to the wrong polling place.
Mooney said he became aware of the issue at 7:30 a.m. and instructed poll workers at Bullitt East High School to direct those voters to Bullitt Lick Middle School.
He and the county attorney asked a circuit judge to extend voting for one hour for those five streets. Though the judge didn’t extend the voting, Mooney said the judge ruled that a sheriff’s deputy should be present at the high school to escort people between the two polling places.
By the time that ruling came down, there was no one left voting, said Mooney.
Mooney said these voters — who all live on streets named with some variety of Woodlake —may have been mis-registered as far back as 2012.
“They’ve never stood out where anyone recognized that they were coded incorrectly,” said Money. “Until an election like this came up where it was a special, things just filtered out differently.”
This story has been updated.