A Kay By Any Other Name…

Since former state Senator Judson Hill resigned his1 seat when he qualified to run for Congress, Senate District 32 seat needs to be filled with a special election. While this race hasn’t drawn the media attention of the CD6 scrum, the special election for State Senate 32 is special in its own way2.

Allegations bubbled that one candidate, Kay Kirkpatrick, changed her name prior to qualifying. It’s been reported that she signed a security deed as “Kay Haltom” on February 14 of this year, then qualified to run for the state senate as “Kay Kirkpatrick.” Coincidentally, “Haltom” is the last name of Dr. Kirkpatrick’s husband, so for the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to it as her “married name.”

One of the other candidates in the District 6 race3 has sought to make hay out of this, and a formal hearing to determine Dr. Kirkpatrick’s “qualifications to remain on the list of electors” is scheduled for Friday. It is possible that registering to vote using one name and signing a legal document using her married name could result in removing Dr. Kirkpatrick from the ballot – although that outcome is slightly less likely than a flock of black swans riding unicorns showing up at the State Capitol.   

There are plenty of reasons for women to use one name professionally and another personally. A woman might establish a professional reputation – say, as an orthopedic surgeon – while using her maiden name. Alternately, she may have have been born with or married into a name that is difficult for people to pronounce or spell4

And – as shocking as this might sound, so pause here to prepare to clutch your pearls – she might even believe that the notion of a person having to identify herself legally as either “maiden” using her father’s name, or “married” using her husband’s name is quaint, but outdated. I was Miss Toh-MAY-toh, but am now Mrs. Toh-MAH-toh. I’m not alone in this line of thought. Per the AJC:

State Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta, who has known the candidate since 2010, said she has never referred to her as anything other than Kay Kirkpatrick, and it would make sense that Kirkpatrick would want to be on the ballot as she is known in the community.

Because women are more likely to change their surnames after getting married, Beskin said women running for office disproportionately face more challenges.

“If there is a name trap, it’s a trap specifically laid for women,” she said.

In my experience, there are many perfectly good reasons why an individual might decide to use one name on a qualification form, and another on other legal documents. For instance, if you want to run for a position on a certain City Council and don’t want anyone to discover that you are delinquent in your court-ordered child support payments5, you might call yourself “Smith,” even if your name is “Jones.”

Honestly, unless she changed her name to avoid a process server, there are zero reasons it is any of our business.

The essence of the allegations being raised to smear Dr. Kirkpatrick are that she has – reader, remember what I said about your pearls – donated to Democrats in the past, under her married name, Kay Haltom. It doesn’t take any high-level opposition research to discover that Kay Haltom has also donated thousands of dollars to Republicans like Representatives Beth Beskin, Betty Price, and Don Parsons, as well as Congressman Austin Scott, former Attorney General Sam Olens, and Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.

By any name, Dr. Kirkpatrick has proven her commitment to Republican candidates in the way that (real talk) matters most in politics: her money.

One can only wonder if her opponents can say the same.

1Perfectly good.

2Not unlike the Get Along Gang.

3Another candidate who is not named “Gus Makris.” For the purposes of that other candidate’s people’s ability to comprehend the concept of nicknames, I’ll clarify that it’s also not a candidate named “Augustus Makris.”

4Not that I have personal experience with this or anything. Fun fact, if I were to have hyphenated my maiden and last names, I’d get to have a seven syllable surname (nine if I also said “hyphen”). People with whom I have worked for nearly a decade can’t pronounce my last name. It’s okay. It’s a thing that happens when your last name is a consonant mashup. Also, I sign legal documents with a first name that’s different than the name you know me by because, again, the concept of nicknames.

5Not that also I have personal experience in the area or anything…

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Holly Croft
Holly Croft

Ugh. This, right here, is why I’m never changing my last name, even personally, if I get married. I already have enough drama with the unusual first name/nickname.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

In Texas, under their now court defeated voter ID law if you used your pre-married name and your registration was different you were not allowed to vote without a copy of your marriage certificate. I think that is ridiculous and I think this is ridiculous as well. Why should a woman have to change her name anyway? Men would scream bloody murder if this happened to them

Lawton Sack
Lawton Sack

You don’t have to change your name. The husband can take the wife’s name, you can hyphenate it, you can both keep your last name, you can come up with a new last name (some people join parts of their last name together).

John Vestal
John Vestal

A candidate for Roswell City Council, Tracy (Tray) Hanley, withdrew from the race after being challenged on the “name” thing by Lee Fleck.

Another candidate, Shelley Sears, was also challenged by Flack on the same issue but her qualification was upheld.

Tony Scalzitti
Tony Scalzitti

My grandparents followed this custom when they became citizens and later married, it’s not common in Italy for women to change their last names. I know they did it because of their pride in becoming citizens and wanted to be “American”, but it does feel like it’s a little outdated.

dr kay
dr kay

I am happy that the Cobb County Board of Elections quickly and unanimously dismissed this frivolous complaint from one of my opponents today so we can get back to the issues that matter to voters.