‘The Democratic nominee for a Missouri Senate seat in Clay County will appear on the November ballot, the Western District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City filed a lawsuit alleging his challenger, Democrat J. Ranen Bechthold of Gladstone, was registered to vote in Jackson County in November 2015 and therefore he lived outside the 17th Senate District where he is currently running.
The state constitution says candidates for the state Senate must live in the district they wish to represent one year before the election.
Bechthold’s latest campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show he paid his wife $868 in August for work she did on the campaign. Her address at the time was listed as Raytown, which is outside the Clay County-based state Senate district.
Bechthold says he lived in the district when he entered the U.S. Army in 2010 and “that did not cease to be my residence during my six years of military service.” He points to a section of the state Constitution that says no one loses Missouri residency while engaged in military service.
The Jackson County address was his in-laws, he said.
“I have served my country, fighting in Afghanistan,” Bechthold said. “What has Mr. Silvey done, other than trying to stifle democracy by bringing this lawsuit and denying the voters of the 17th Senate District a choice.”
Silvey seemed to close the door on an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, saying in a statement that while he is disappointed that “the courts have ruled that you may be registered to vote in one district while simultaneously being a resident of another district,” he accepts the decision and looks forward to a “spirited campaign to continue representing the people of Clay County in the Senate.”
The lawsuit may not have knocked Bechthold off the ballot, but defending himself and staving off the residency challenge did drain his meager campaign warchest. He reported only $7,000 cash on hand earlier this month, compared to more than $575,000 for Silvey.