LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Tuesday, voters in Bullitt County will decide who replaces Republican Rep. Dan Johnson, who committed suicide last year.
The choice in the House 49 special election is between two familiar, but very different candidates,
Republican Rebecca Johnson is Johnson’s widow, and has never run for office. Former House member, Democrat Linda Belcher, is counting on her experience to return to Frankfort.
Johnson spent part of election eve campaigning in her home territory of Mt. Washington. She has walked these neighborhoods before for her late husband, but this time she is trying to win support for herself.
“I think they're ready for a fresh, new face, and a bold person that's going to go forward even in the face of controversy,” Johnson told WDRB News.
And there has been controversy.
Dan Johnson killed himself in December after denying an accusation that he sexually assaulted a member of his Heart of Fire Church.
Rebecca Johnson said she's not talking about past controversies, and voters are not raising them.
“Most of the time, they're very compassionate, which is overwhelming to me. They're thanking me for stepping up to the plate to carry on my husband's position,” she said.
Democrat Linda Belcher's campaign headquarters in Shepherdsville was a hub of activity on the day before the election.
She is a veteran campaigner who lost to Dan Johnson by less than 200 votes in 2016.
“Well, I have the experience. I'm a hard worker. They know who I am because I have worked so hard for them,” Belcher told WDRB.
Belcher is also a widow, winning her first election in 2008 after her husband, Rep. Larry Belcher, was killed in a car wreck.
“They don't go into a voting booth and say, ‘Now which widow will I vote for?’ What they should be looking at is which person has the best credentials,” Belcher said.
Turnout will be key, but it also could be a challenge. The 49th District includes most of Bullitt County, but not all. The county includes two other House districts which are not holding elections.
“What I am concerned about is that folks in the 26th or the 53rd will show up because they don't realize who their representative is. And they show up and be told that they can't vote,” Bullitt County Clerk Kevin Mooney said.
The winner will finish Dan Johnson's term through December.
No matter who wins, both Johnson and Belcher will be back on the ballot again later this year. Both are running for the full term, which begins in 2019.
Johnson faces Thomas Huff in the Republican primary in May. The winner will then run against Belcher in November.
Belcher is unopposed in the May Democratic primary
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