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Outgoing Democratic Rep. Buddy Wheatley announces bid for Secretary of State

Legislative Research Commission
Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who has been in office since 2019 representing District 65, lost his re-election bid to Republican Stephanie Dietz this year.

Democratic Rep. Buddy Wheatley from Covington announced his candidacy for Secretary of State at the Covington Firefighters Union Hall on Tuesday.

Wheatley, who has been in office since 2019 representing District 65, lost his re-election bid to Republican Stephanie Dietz this year.

“What we need most is real leadership in the Secretary of State’s office - a true champion for voting rights. Someone who will stand up to election deniers. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for Secretary of State - to protect and promote the most fundamental part of our democracy - free and fair elections,” he said in a statement.

Wheatley previously said he’s in favor of eliminating straight-party voting, and he wants to streamline voter registration.

He has also voted forthe successful Election Reform Bill in 2021. It cemented expanded voting policies implemented during the coronavirus pandemic — like vote by mail and early voting.

Before the pandemic, Kentucky had some of the most restrictive election laws in the country. The state only allowed people to cast ballots early or by mail if they had an excuse like a medical condition, or if they temporarily reside outside their home county.

In his plan to improve voter access and turnout, Wheatley says he would increase polling locations, recruit more poll workers and extend early voting days up to two weeks.

“In the 2022 election cycle, we saw only 41.8% voter turnout - the lowest midterm turnout in Kentucky in nearly three decades. That’s why I’m here today. To protect our Commonwealth, our families and our neighbors, we need to come together to ensure free and fair elections,” he said in his announcement.

Wheatley’s high-profile challenger so far is incumbent Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who announced his run in August.

While in office, Adams has handled voting administration during a turbulent time in the state marked by the coronavirus pandemic and election denial after the 2020 presidential elections.

Adams faces one primary challenger so far: Allen Maricle, who was disqualified from running in the GOP primary for the Senate district that includes Bullitt County and part of Jefferson County.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.