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W.Va. Candidate Won't Withdraw Despite Registration Glitch

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Whitney Curtis
/
NPR
FILE - Voters in Missouri cast ballots on Election Day 2016.

A West Virginia political candidate who was not a registered Republican when he filed papers to run for a House of Delegates seat in the upcoming GOP primary said Tuesday that it was a simple oversight and he plans to continue with his campaign.

Bob Fehrenbacher is running against incumbent Republican Delegate Roger Conley in the May 10 primary for the District 11 seat representing portions of Wood County.

Forms that candidates fill out to run for office must be signed and notarized. They specifically require candidates to attest to their party affiliation.

Fehrenbacher said in a telephone interview that when he signed his candidacy papers in January, “I thought in good faith that I was registered as a Republican. Much to my surprise, I was not. And as soon as that came to my attention, I immediately went into the West Virginia secretary of state's system and changed it. I should have checked and I did not do that."

The state Republican Party said in a statement that Fehrenbacher instead was an unaffiliated voter when he filed his papers and did not register as a GOP voter until late March.

“Simply put, lying on a sworn statement is not acceptable behavior for those who wish to be elected officials,” GOP chairman Mark Harris said in the statement.

Harris said he called on Fehrenbacher to withdraw from the race "for the good of the West Virginia Republican Party and our voters."

Fehrenbacher said his campaign will go on.

“I am a strong Republican supporter and am aligned with Republican candidates, donated to Republican candidates and supported the election of Republicans” he said.

Fehrenbacher said it's his understanding that if someone had brought up his voter registration within 10 days after his filing, he could have been disqualified from running.

“That did not occur, and as a result of that, it's my understanding that I am a valid candidate,” he said.

An after-hours message left with the secretary of state’s office was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The winner of the May primary will move on to the general election to face Democrat Harry Deitzler. Deitzler is an attorney and a former county prosecutor who is unchallenged in the primary.

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