Council Members Balance Campaigns, Legislation

by Gabe Bullard on December 17, 2009

King1Three members of the Louisville Metro Council—Democrats David Tandy and Jim King and Republican Hal Heiner—are seeking their party’s nomination in next year’s race for mayor.

That has some wondering what, if any, impact it could have on the legislative process as primary election day approaches.

WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how the three councilmen plan to balance their campaigns with their roles as legislators….

When he announced his candidacy for mayor this year, Jim King said he wanted to keep the competition out of the council. Months later, he says that’s still the plan.

“We don’t talk mayoral politics at City Hall.”

In fact, King says running against colleagues in and out of his party has enhanced the race, making the competition more cordial.

“We certainly have mutual respect for each other, and so I know for my part, I can’t imagine running negative ads against a colleague,” he says.

President David Tandy

One of King’s Democratic opponents, outgoing council President David Tandy, agrees. He doesn’t believe the race will

get in the way of council business, even though things may get heated outside of the chamber leading up to the primary.

“There are times when you scrimmage each other before the game,” says Tandy. “The players will scrimmage each other and go after it vigorously, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.”

“There’s a level of respect there, and I really don’t see that creeping into council operations,” says Councilman Hal Heiner.

As a Republican, Heiner has had political differences with Tandy and King on council matters. If he ends up facing one of his colleagues in the general election, Heiner agrees with King that the discourse should stay civil as the campaign heats up.

Councilman Hal Heiner

“I’m hoping that’s the case,” he says. “There is a high level of respect between the members of the council and my hope is that will carry through the next year.”

But not everyone on the council believes that’s likely to happen.

“The potential for that position being a naïve position, it seems to me, is very real,” says Democratic Councilman Tom Owen.Owen ran for mayor while serving on the old city’s Board of Alderman in 1998.

“The potential for using the council for the advancement of a political identity or to be identified with a political issue or to use an issue to embarrass an opponent who might also be on the council,” he says. “I just think we’re being naïve if we deny that potential.”

Owen doesn’t question the candidates’ dedication to running a friendly race. But with three council members campaigning on their legislative records, Owen says it’s possible that campaign disagreements could come up during council business.

“I just think there is a tendency in the heat of a campaign that a candidate legislator would be frayed and might, in a weary moment, say something, that upon further reflection, he or she wishes they could delete from the record,” says Owen.

Ward-Pugh

But potential campaign tensions in the chamber wouldn’t likely be limited to candidates on the council. With six Democrats and two Republicans seeking the mayor’s office, some council members are supporting outside candidates. Tina Ward-Pugh, for example, supports Democrat Tyler Allen.

Ward-Pugh decided not to seek the council presidency next year in part because of her endorsement of Allen in the mayor’s race.

But even though she recognizes the race’s potential for tension in the council, Ward-Pugh doesn’t think infighting is a foregone conclusion, even as other council members prepare to endorse the candidates of their choice.

“I believe the rest of the council members are going to step up and do their part to ensure that it doesn’t happen,” she says.

Ward-Pugh says council and campaign issues will overlap, but she has faith in her colleagues to put progress over politics

“No matter who wins or loses, we’ve all got to work together the next day, and that’s what’s important,” says Ward-Pugh.

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