Kentucky Politics

A Democratic candidate running for state representative in Louisville has withdrawn from the race after he failed to switch his voter registration on time.

Matthew Pfaadt, an engineer who had filed to run for House District 29, was a registered Republican until he switched parties in January. The deadline to change party affiliation was Dec. 31st, 2021.

Republican incumbent Rep. Kevin Bratcher sued to remove Pfaadt from the ballot earlier this month, arguing that he was not a “bona fide candidate.”

Following the lawsuit, Pfaadt withdrew from the race. His attorney Anna Whites called the situation “an honest, good-faith error.”

“The filing is usually checked properly, but this time it wasn’t. He’s a first time candidate so he did not know any better. It is very, very unfortunate timing for the Democrats,” Whites said.

Democrats have had a hard time fielding a candidate to run against Bratcher this year. Before Pfaadt, educator Suzanne Kugler filed to run for the seat, but she was disqualified after the Republican-led legislature drew new boundaries for the district during this year’s redistricting process.

And now, it’s unclear whether the Democratic Party will be able to field a new candidate following Pfaadt’s withdrawal.

Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair Virginia Woodward said the party would announce a new candidate for the seat on Tuesday.

“It was a total shock to us. Pfaadt’s change in registration after the deadline had passed was a technicality we were unaware of. We only nominated him to run as a Democrat in the General Election after redistricting meant Kugler couldn’t run,” she said.

But, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, Kentucky’s chief election official, argues it’s too late for Democrats to field a new candidate.

Adams’ communications director Michon Lindstrom said state law doesn’t allow the secretary to accept new candidates after he’s certified which ones appear on the ballot. Lindstrom said that took place on Aug. 22.

“The law does not anticipate multiple do-overs, gaming the system, or brinkmanship close to the election. As we’ve said to litigants bringing frivolous recount petitions, our election officials will follow the law and not be deterred from preparing for the general election,” Lindstrom said in a statement.

Whites, Pfaadt’s attorney, said Adams’ position that Democrats can’t select a new candidate is an overreach of his powers.

“There are situations where candidates die, or get seriously ill or disqualified, and the party then has that 10-day period to replace the candidate. But he’s saying he’s not going to certify this candidate in a timely fashion and so the replacement candidate cannot be on the ballot. I just don’t think he has the legal authority to do that,” Whites said.

Woodward, with the Jefferson County Democratic Party, said the party is abiding by the rules in replacing a candidate.

“Our official position as the local Jefferson County party is that our candidate has withdrawn or is in the process of withdrawing. And then under the rules, we are allowed to nominate another candidate to be on the Democrat ballot,” she said.

Whites said she is considering filing a lawsuit. She argues that the secretary of state is allowing politics to influence his decisions because Bratcher would be unopposed in the election if no Democrat is allowed to run.

“While it’s up to the candidate to get the filing correct, I believe this exercise of power by the secretary of state is not under the law,” she said.

Bratcher and his attorney Robert Nemes did not respond to requests for comment.

Divya is WFPL's Capitol Reporter.