LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The widow of late State Rep. Dan Johnson is now officially running to try and replace him in 49th House District.

On Thursday night, Bullitt County leaders from both parties chose their nominees for the Feb. 20 special election. Republicans chose Dan Johnson's widow, Rebecca Johnson, and Democrats selected former State Rep. Linda Belcher.

“A lot of people wanted me to run again,” Belcher said Friday.

Belcher is trying to regain the seat she lost to Dan Johnson by a razor thin margin last year. After a recanvass, Belcher fell short by just 156 votes. Now, she must run against Johnson's widow, Rebecca. Johnson committed suicide on Dec. 13.

“When I heard the news, first was shock,” Belcher said. “And the second thing was, I guess, sorrow for the family.”

It was a kind of sorrow that Belcher has experienced herself.

She originally won the 49th District seat in 2008 following the death of her husband, Rep. Larry Belcher, in a car wreck. But Belcher hopes voters focus on the issues, not the circumstances of the election.

“I think people need to recognize that we are both widows, and then they need to move past that," she said. "They need to be looking at credentials, experience, who can do the best job."

Rebecca Johnson did not respond to our interview request. But on Dec. 14, she told WDRB she wants to fulfill her husband's legacy.

“He really wanted to help the first responders," Johnson said, barely holding back tears. "He wanted to do something for post-traumatic stress disorder for law enforcement. He was working on medical marijuana."

Johnson said she has more to offer besides being Dan Johnson's widow

“I've been in management my whole life," she said. "I've managed hundreds of people when we had a day care. I've managed everything in the world that I can get my hands on, everything we've ever done."

Belcher has already filed her special election paperwork with the secretary of state. Johnson has until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2. It’s a short window since the office is closed until Tuesday morning for the New Year’s holiday.

“If we don't have paperwork for anyone other than Linda Belcher, it would be an uncontested special election,” Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said.

The deadline is set by the Kentucky law. Paperwork must be filed at least 49 days before the day of the election.

“Once Jan. 2 at 4 o'clock hits, we begin preparing ballots, making sure that they are timely printed so that they can be sent overseas to any military and overseas voters within the district wanting to participate in the special election,” Grimes said.

The winner will fill Dan Johnson's unexpired term which runs through the end of the year. If either Belcher or Johnson wants to serve beyond that, she must win the May primary and the November general election.

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