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Mississippi Supreme Court rules Gunasekara ineligible to run for public service commission

Mandy Gunasekara
Photo courtesy of Mandy Gunasekara

Following a months-long dispute over a residency challenge, Mandy Gunasekara has been ruled ineligible to run for public service commissioner this election season.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a prior circuit court decision that deemed Gunasekara had not lived in-state for the required five years prior to participating in a public election.

According to records, Gunasekara, a former EPA official in the Trump Administration, and her husband received a homestead reduction on property taxes in Washington, D.C. as recently as 2021. The Republican also voted in a D.C. election on Nov. 6, 2018.

However, the Republican has continued to maintain that her primary address has been in Mississippi since 2018, testifying that she and her husband purchased a property in Decatur in August 2018 with renovations lasting from September 2018 until June 2019.

In a statement, Gunasekara acknowledged that she may take the matter to federal court in hopes of maintaining her spot on this year’s ballot.

“I’m a fighter and a constitutional conservative. I’m assessing all my legal options,” she said. “The Mississippi Supreme Court acknowledged the potential unconstitutionality of this provision, yet found a convenient, procedural mechanism to avoid a decision on the merits. I believe the voters of Mississippi deserve a ruling on the merit.”

The decision from the Mississippi Supreme Court – which goes against a previous ruling by the state GOP – now leaves Tanner Newman and Chris Brown as the only Republican candidates seeking the commission’s northern district seat with no Democrats vying for the position currently held by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley.

“My campaign will continue to spread our positive message and work to earn the support of voters across north Mississippi,” Newman said. “Let there be no doubt – Mandy Gunasekara has a bright future in public service ahead of her. I welcome all of Mandy’s supporters to find a home on Team Newman.”

Newman serves as director of Development Services for the city of Tupelo, while Brown has spent the last three terms in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Brown has not issued a statement on the Gunasekara ruling as of publication of this article.

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