The lone local Democrat running for political office in next year’s election is being challenged regarding her qualifications.

Circuit Judge Jenifer Holt was expected to rule Wednesday whether Kimberly Paris Coates, who is running for Jackson County Superintendent of Education, can remain on the ballot.

The Jackson County Republican Party challenged Coates’ qualifications, sending the issue to court Wednesday morning.

Probate Judge Victor Manning, the county’s chief election official, said he received the challenge from the Republican party Monday, who said Coates did not file the required certification from the State Department of Education before the deadline for qualification for the primary elections, which was on Nov. 8.

The deadline for Manning to certify the names of candidates for printing for the 2020 primary election is Thursday.

County Attorney John Porter said a state code requires the certification.

“Before qualifying ends, the certification must be filed to the probate judge,” said Porter. “Unfortunately, [Coates] didn’t get it on time.”

Porter added that if Manning put Coates on the ballot and she’s not qualified, he could face a misdemeanor crime charge.

Coates said she didn’t decide to run for superintendent until the last minute, literally.

“I’m new to this,” said Coates, who represented herself in Wednesday’s hearing without an attorney.

Coates said she has spent a month trying to get the certification letter to give to Manning. She said she finally received it Wednesday morning.

“I’ve done everything in good faith,” said Coates, who is attempting to challenge current Jackson County Superintendent Kevin Dukes.

Porter said Coates should be applauded for all she has done, but the law is the law. Porter cited an Attorney General Opinion saying a candidate must “file such certification from the State Superintendent of Education before the qualifying deadline.”

Jackson County Democrat Party Chairman Toni McGriff said in court that she thinks Coates is a qualified candidate.

“I think she’s done everything she can,” said McGriff. “She’s ran into some obstacles.”

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