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Gunasekara appeals residency ruling to...

Gunasekara appeals residency ruling to Mississippi Supreme Court

By: Frank Corder - March 31, 2023

The Northern District Public Service Commissioner candidate seeks to clear her name and remain on the Republican Primary ballot.

Mandy Gunasekara says she isn’t giving up the fight to seek the Northern District Public Service Commission seat in Mississippi.

On Thursday, Gunasekara filed an appeal at the Mississippi Supreme Court following the ruling from special appointed Judge Lamar Pickard that declared she failed to meet the requirements under Mississippi law to be placed on the ballot of the Republican Primary for that race.

At issue is a challenge filed by DeSoto County resident Matthew Barton who questioned whether Gunasekara had an established residency or citizenship in Mississippi as of November 7, 2018, five years prior to the date of the 2023 General Election as statutorily required.

Gunasekara served as a Senior Advisor and then the Chief of Staff in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington D.C. during the Trump Administration.

Barton, a candidate for District Attorney, first brought the challenge before the Republican State Executive Committee where it was dismissed. He then filed an appeal, prompting the court action last week.

READ MORE: Judge rules against Gunasekara being placed on ballot

In the appeal to the state Supreme Court, Gunasekara’s attorney, Spencer Ritchie, argues that the trial court improperly treated the act of voting as the determinative factor in deciding domicile and failed to give adequate weight, if any weight, to Gunasekara’s declaration of intent. Ritchie also states that the trial court overlooked or ignored uncontroverted evidence of Gunasekara establishing her domicile in Mississippi prior to November 7, 2018. He also argues that the trial court misapplied the legal standard for domicile and failed to follow legal precedent from the Hale case the Mississippi Supreme Court decided in 2015.

Ritchie goes even further, ultimately stating that the trial court’s interpretation of the five-year citizenship requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

“Here, given Mrs. Gunasekara’s extensive history in Mississippi, and only being away from it solely to work in Article I and Article II branches of the federal government in the Constitutional seat of the federal government, the trial court’s application of the five-year citizenship requirement to disqualify her candidacy fails strict constitutional scrutiny,” Gunasekara’s attorney outlines to the state Supreme Court. “This is especially true considering that the trial court effectively found that but for a mere two months at the beginning of the five-year term, Mrs. Gunasekara satisfied the durational requirement. Accordingly, the trial court’s decision should be reversed as being in violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

In a video message Thursday evening, Gunasekara told supporters that she was still a candidate for the PSC seat.

“The appeal is filed and I’m still on the ballot for Public Service Commissioner,” Gunasekara tweeted. “I’m planning on taking this fight to the MS Supreme Court, clearing my name, and winning for Mississippians.”

No date has been set for the hearing of this matter at the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Editor’s Note: Counsel for Mrs. Gunasekara, Spencer Ritchie, is a member of the Board of Directors for Magnolia Tribune Institute, parent of Magnolia Tribune. The MTI Board exercises no editorial control over Magnolia Tribune’s content or coverage.

Notice of Appeal – Gunasekara by Russ Latino on Scribd

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: