Louisville’s Mayor Jerry Abramson’s announcement last week that he will seek Lieutenant Governor’s post in 2011 rather than re-election in 2010 came after weeks of speculation that he was plotting just such a move. In those weeks, talk of possible successors to Abramson also picked up. Even though only one candidate has started campaigning, the fight for the Democratic nomination could be a 3-, 4- or 5-way race.
So far, only Democrat Greg Fischer has declared his candidacy for Metro Mayor. Fischer is a local businessman who voters may remember from his recent bid for Mitch McConnell’s U.S. Senate seat. Fischer lost the Democratic primary to Bruce Lunsford, but says he’s ready re-enter politics. And one of his top issues is resolving some frustrations in the old county that have developed after merger.
“Before merger the urban core was looked at as the center. Now post merger we need to look at the entire Jefferson County being the core of a greater region.”
Fischer says many residents in the old county may feel as if they haven’t yet benefited from the merger, and it will be up to the next mayor to fulfill the promises made six years ago.
“The Abramson administration is certainly making progress in that area. It did a lot of heavy lifting in terms of merging government. Now the next step is to continue that outreach, so that no matter where you go in the county people feel like they are feeling the benefits of a merged government.”
“How do we collectively make some of the promises a merged government real for people all across
Jefferson County in all of its quarters? Regardless of what your socioeconomic background may be, regardless of what neighborhood you may live in.”
Metro Council President David Tandy is seriously considering a run for mayor. His 4th District includes downtown and parts of several adjacent neighborhoods. Some insiders see him as the heir apparent to Abramson, though he may have difficulty keeping up financially with Fischer. Tandy says his decision will depend on solid political and financial support and the backing of his family, which twelve weeks ago grew by one when his wife Carolyn had a son.
“We have a very busy household in the Tandy family but nonetheless, we’re a family that believes in public service. Carol and I met in public service, so this is something we’re committed to.”
Family matters could be a detriment to another possible candidate, 10th District Metro Councilman Jim King. King, a former council president, faced some criticism over his fundraising role in daughter Katie’s 2008 campaign for a district judgeship.
King, however, has built up political capital as co-chair of the council’s budget committee during. He helped shape a lean budget that earned unprecedented bipartisan support. Calls to his office for comment on the mayor’s race were not returned.
Rounding out the rumored ballot is Tyler Allen, who co-founded the local transportation group 8664 that’s proposing an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project.
“The values that are represented in the 8664 movement clearly would be instructive and informative for me”
But Allen says his involvement with the group doesn’t make him a single-issue candidate, even though he says transportation is crucial to a successful city.
“It would clearly play a role in whatever I did. The reclamation of the city and continuing on an effort to make it a vibrant, energetic place that’s attractive to new people as well as pleasant to those who live here.”
Joe Gerth is the Courier-Journal’s political writer. He says Tandy, King and Allen are all strong candidates, but the race is still wide open for someone who isn’t a well-known council member or businessman.
“There is no female candidate at this point and also there are no candidates in the Democratic primary who come from outside the Watterson.”
Gerth says voters could embrace such an outsider.
“If they are a legitimate candidate otherwise they could make a pretty good push for getting some of those suburban votes and yeah, they could pull it off. If you’ve got five candidates in the race, all you need is 21% if everyone else splits up the vote evenly.”
One Republican side, Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, who lost to Abramson in 2006, has announced that he won’t make another run for mayor next year, but the GOP isn’t without potential candidates. Former Lieutenant Governor Steve Pence is being encouraged to run. He benefits from his time in state government and his decision to part ways with Gov. Ernie Fletcher after the 2007 hiring scandal. Meanwhile in South Louisville, where anti-Abramson sentiments run high, supporters of state Senator Dan Seum recently held a rally encouraging him to run for mayor.
County GOP Chairman Brad Cummings says Pence and Seum are both strong prospects for the party, and would likely run on a platform of fiscal responsibility.
Though the election is more than a year away, both Cummings and Gerth says the next month will likely hold a flurry of expected…and surprise…announcements.