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Gunasekara files appeal with U.S....

Gunasekara files appeal with U.S. Supreme Court seeking to remain on the ballot

By: Sarah Ulmer - May 30, 2023

Mandy Gunasekara, a Republican candidate on the primary ballot for the Northern District Public Service Commissioner post, answers questions regarding a residency challenge in Hinds County Circuit Court, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A candidate for Northern District Public Service Commissioner continues her fight to be on the Republican Primary ballot in August after losing a residency challenge before the Mississippi Supreme Court earlier this month.

Mandy Gunasekara, a Republican seeking the position Northern District Public Service Commissioner seat, was removed from the ballot earlier this month. The move came after the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a ruling in Hinds County that deemed her ineligible based on a five-year residency requirement.  

Gunasekara says she is a seventh generation Mississippian. She has worked multiple times in Washington, D.C. in various roles with Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2017, she received an appointment from the Trump White House to be a senior advisor at the EPA, ultimately serving as the agency’s chief of staff. Gunasekara has indicated that she was commuting back-and-forth to Mississippi during this period.

READ MORE: Mississippi Supreme Court issues ruling on Gunasekara, Jones eligibility

Gunasekara said at the time of her removal from the ballot on May 11th that voters deserved a ruling on the merits of the case. She cited the potential unconstitutionality of the state residency provision and went on to say that she was assessing all legal options, which included an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That appeal was docketed at the nation’s highest court on May 26th.

Today, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito requested that Matthew Barton, the initial challenger of Gunasekara’s residency, file a response to the Court by noon on June 5th.

Barton, a candidate for District Attorney in DeSoto County, first brought the challenge before the Mississippi Republican State Executive Committee where it was dismissed. Barton then filed an appeal, prompting court action in Hinds County.

Both Barton and the Mississippi Republican Executive Committee are named in the latest appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the Mississippi Republican Executive Committee only entered an appearance in the Mississippi Supreme Court’s proceeding. The committee did not participate in any other way, leaving Barton as the respondent.

“It’s absurd that after I’ve lived here for the majority of my life, a local judge decided I’m not Mississippi enough to run for the Public Service Commission in the northern district. As currently applied, the law is unconstitutional and an affront to the men and women of Mississippi who deserve the opportunity to vote for a qualified, constitutional conservative,” Gunasekara said in a statement sent to Magnolia Tribune. “That’s why I’m taking this fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I appreciate Justice Alito’s swift response on my request.”

Gunasekara is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of the Mississippi Supreme Court’s order. She says it is necessary because it will prevent irreparable harm, will not substantially injure other parties in the interim, and will serve the public interest.

She also notes that the stay will not harm Barton as he is not a candidate in the PSC race.

Ultimately, Gunasekara seeks an injunction from the Court pending appeal that instructs the Mississippi Secretary of State to include her as a candidate for Northern District Public Service Commissioner on the primary election ballot which is set for August 8th.

There are two Republican candidates currently remaining in the Northern PSC race – Tanner Newman and State Rep. Chris Brown. No Democrat filed to run for the seat being vacated by Brandon Presley who decided to run for Governor in 2023. Presley has served on the Public Service Commission for four terms.


You can read the full appeal filed by Gunasekara at the U.S. Supreme Court below.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: