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Metro Council member loses appeal for District 3 special election

Kumar Rashad poses in front of Breckinridge Metropolitan High School. Rashad teaches math to the upperclassmen at Breckinridge. He said finds fulfillment in his job because this is a place where he feels he is needed. According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse via JCPS, out of the Breckinridge graduates from 2010 to 2017 the average rate of those who enroll immediately to some sort of higher institution is only 18 percent.
Roxanne Scott
Metro Council members appoointed Kumar Rashad to fill the District 3 vacancy in April 2023.

The Kentucky Democratic Party rejected an appeal by Louisville Metro Council Member Kumar Rashad, who’s seeking to be party’s nominee in a November special election.

With its decision last week, state party officials reaffirmed that Shameka Parrish-Wright will be the Democratic candidate for Metro Council District 3, which covers the Taylor Barry and Jacobs neighborhoods, as well as the independent city of Shively. That means Rashad will have to give up his seat after the election.

Metro Council appointed Rashad in February to temporarily fill the District 3 seat vacated by Keisha Dorsey, who left for a senior position in Mayor Craig Greenberg’s administration.

Rashad campaigned to be the Democratic candidate in the special election and was selected by a vote of local party officials in April. But Parrish-Wright successfully appealed that decision and, after another vote, became the Democratic nominee. Parrish-Wright is a well-known activist and director of VOCAL-KY, an organization focused on ending the AIDS epidemic, the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

Kentucky Democratic Party Spokesperson Anna Breedlove said Monday the executive committee rejected Rashad’s final appeal after hearing arguments from both sides. She said they voted “overwhelmingly” that the Jefferson County Democratic Party properly nominated Parrish-Wright.

While Rashad has now exhausted the Democratic Party’s appeals process, he could file a lawsuit against the party to try to overturn the vote. Rashad said Monday that would be a big escalation and he’s still discussing his options with his family and supporters.

“I haven’t come to a conclusion on that yet,” Rashad said.

For now, Rashad said he’s treating his work on Metro Council as if he’ll have to give up his seat after the November special election. He said he’s moving “full steam ahead” on issues he thinks are most important to residents, like trying to get a grocery store back in the Southland Terrace Plaza. The Kroger there closed in 2016, leaving the mostly working-class city of Shively a food desert.

“A lot of our folks are on the lower end of the income spectrum compared to other places in Louisville,” Rashad said. “That compounded with not having access to good food just makes everyone’s life more devastating.”

Rashad said he’s talking to potential investors about their concerns in reopening a grocery store at Southland Terrace and what Louisville Metro can do to alleviate them. He’s also a co-sponsor of an ordinance aimed at preventing the gentrification of historically Black neighborhoods.

The appeals by Rashad and Parrish-Wright centered on a complicated system whereby local Democratic Party leaders select a nominee to run. Each official’s vote is proportional to the number of Democrats in their area, meaning some people’s votes are worth more than others.

That process is set to change following action by the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this year. Moving forward, anyone interested in running for a Metro Council seat in a special election will be able to appear on the ballot without needing a party nomination.

The nominee

Following the state party’s decision, Parrish-Wright said she is ready to move forward with campaigning for the District 3 seat. She said she’s working on finalizing a progressive platform focused on the needs of the mostly working-class residents she would represent.

“They see the news and they see all the funding that’s coming into the Russell community, Parkland and they want to know that District 3 hasn’t been left out of that," she said. “So, from speed humps to affordable housing, home repairs, to doing something about abandoned houses.”

Parrish-Wright is likely to face a Republican challenger in the special election. The Jefferson County Republican Party has not yet announced a nominee. Independent candidates can also file to be on the ballot.

On Monday, Parrish-Wright said she’s hopeful she and Rashad can move past their disagreements over the nominating process and work together ahead of November.

“I want to do everything I can to help,” she said. “Hopefully, we can be on the same page about moving District 3 forward and making sure that it becomes one of the strongest districts on Metro Council.”

Parrish-Wright said she’d also like to work with Rashad after the election and she’d be open to “helping Rashad seek another position.”

The election will take place on November 7, along with regular elections for statewide offices including governor and attorney general. Two other Metro Council seats, District 6 and 8, will also have special elections that day.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.