Former Trump EPA chief of staff drops run to be the GOP primary ballot
Another setback for Mandy Gunasekara in her bid to have her name on the Republican primary ballot for Northern District Public Service Commissioner (PSC) came down Friday morning.
The U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal of a Mississippi Supreme Court decision that the former chief of staff for the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Donald Trump was not eligible to be on the ballot for residency reasons.
The continuing legal battle started when Hernando attorney and DeSoto County District Attorney candidate Matthew Barton challenged Gunasekara’s eligibility to be on the ballot. Barton stated she had a residence and voted in Washington, DC in November 2018, which prevented her from meeting the five-year citizenship residency requirement in Mississippi.
Barton continued the challenge after Republican state officials first ruled in her favor. Judge Lamar Pickard next agreed with Barton in circuit court, which led to Gunasekara appealing to the state and federal Supreme Courts.
Following Friday’s decision that the case would not be heard in U. S. Supreme Court, Gunasekara posted this response on social media, confirming the end of her attempt to be on the PSC Commissioner ballot:
In his statement, Barton stated his challenge was to ensure the residency requirements were adhered to, and again made reference to his own race for District Attorney. Barton has continued to say that current District Attorney Robert Morris III could not run for re-election in four years for the same residency reasons.
“Every court of law we went to, including the highest court of the land, has affirmed what I’ve said all along,” Barton said. “I take issue with people who move to an area just to run for office, like my own opponent who will not be eligible to run in 2027 when his 2023 residency loophole expires. These opportunistic politicians weave good stories, but the law sees through that.”
Morris, appointed in 2022 by Gov. Tate Reeves, with the passing of former District Attorney John Champion, took residence in Hernando from Batesville when he was appointed. Morris states he did so to adhere to the five-year residency requirement for re-election eligibility in 2027. Barton has steadfastly disagreed with that, but the issue is moot for this election cycle because of Morris being appointed by Reeves to fill the vacancy.
The Northern District PSC race leaves Tanner Newman and state Rep. Chris Brown as the names you will find on the ballot in August. With no Democratic challenger, the winner of the Republican primary will become the next Public Service Commissioner. He will replace Democrat Brandon Presley, who is leaving that elected post for his campaign for governor.