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Public Service Commission candidate Gunasekara responds to residency claims

Mandy Gunasekara
Photo courtesy of Mandy Gunasekara

Mandy Gunasekara, a Republican candidate for public service commissioner in Mississippi’s northern district, is denying a claim that she has not lived in-state the required amount of time to seek public office.

First reported by the Daily Journal, DeSoto County attorney Matthew Barton filed a residency challenge Thursday with the Mississippi Republican Party against Gunasekara, alleging that she has not lived in Mississippi for at least five years before the date of the election.

Gunasekara, who previously served as chief of staff at the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Donald Trump, has since maintained that she has lived in Oxford since 2018.

“My heart, my home, and my family have always been in Mississippi,” Gunasekara, a native of Decatur, said. “My time fighting for conservative values with President Trump is why I’m the most qualified candidate and the subject of these attacks. I conferred with Mississippi election law experts, and I meet the requirements for PSC.”

The last time Gunasekara voted in a Washington, D.C. election was Nov. 6, 2018. General elections in Mississippi are set for Nov. 7, 2023.

However, public records show that Gunasekara and her husband received a homestead deduction on property taxes in D.C. in 2021 – something that Gunasekara’s attorney believes has nothing to do with her Mississippi residence.

“Under clearly established Mississippi law, citizenship and residency are not synonymous,” Spencer Ritchie said. “To the extent Mandy ever lost her Mississippi citizenship during her time working in D.C., which is debatable, she certainly regained it once she took several concrete steps in 2018 to abandon D.C. and once again make Mississippi her permanent home. There is no doubt that since that time, Mississippi has been her primary and permanent home.”

Ritchie, the former GOP director in Mississippi, also added that he is “confident” in how the Republican Party’s executive committee will rule on the matter, which is due by Feb. 19.

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