By Gabe Bullard
Louisville Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins has earned a reputation with some of his colleagues that does him few favors. He’s sometimes seen as a contrarian on certain issues, especially those championed by the mayor, and the two-term Republican is often outspoken on matters beyond the council’s control. Hawkins is up for re-election this year, and with two opponents, he could be in for the toughest race in his career.
Over coffee at Mr. Lou’s Country Cottage on Valley Station Road in the 25th District, Brian Tucker reflects on his councilman.
“I think he’s a polarizing figure,” he says. “I think the people that like him really love him and I think the people that don’t have really any opinion of him whatsoever, once they start to look at his record will dislike him and vote for anybody else besides him.”
Tucker runs a blog about issues in southwest Louisville. He says Hawkins’ has given the 25th District a bad reputation with his seemingly quixotic attempts to end illegal immigration in Louisville and to halt construction of an apparently benign police storage facility, among other actions.
Tucker says the councilman does little to help his constituents, and instead has his sights on winning a seat in the state Senate, or another office beyond the Metro Council.
“When we think of Doug Hawkins, we think of a guy who’s out to help himself,” he says.
But Hawkins says all of his actions on the council have been in his district’s best interest and he doesn’t consider his council seat a stepping stone to higher office.
“I have an open line of communication with my constituents,” says Hawkins. “And they know I’m concerned about the same issues they’re concerned about.”
“It’s nothing against Doug, but I think Doug always fights the wrong fight,” says Dr. Robert Thrasher.
Thrasher is challenging Hawkins in the Republican primary. He says he hasn’t seen the councilman do enough to help his district in the last 7 years. And with many southwestern Louisville residents questioning the benefits of the city-county merger, Tucker and Thrasher say the 25th needs a representative who will focus on bringing business and jobs to the area, instead of waging political battles.
Thrasher says naysaying and politicking have made Hawkins a weak candidate, and he doesn’t expect the councilman to keep his seat.
“If I don’t beat Doug, then David Yates will beat him in the fall,” he says.
David Yates is the sole Democrat seeking his party’s nomination to Hawkins’ seat. A former assistant under then-Attorney General and now Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, he’s earned Stumbo’s support as well as endorsements from other big-name local Democrats. He hopes to parlay that support into votes.
“I think people in my district are tired of being put on the front page as what’s wrong with the south end,” he says. “I think I can be more effective as a leader serving the district, instead of using the district to serve myself.”
Back at Mr. Lou’s, blogger Brian Tucker is concerned that Hawkins will fight fundraising and political support with negative campaigning. Hawkins often uses e-mail blasts and robo-calls to tell constituents about district events and issues. He says voters appreciate this interaction and all the other work he does for them.
“I’ve got some 75 thousand e-mails that I communicate with my constituents on a regular basis with. I’ve got a phone-calling machine; I can put out 10,000 phone calls a day,” says Hawkins.
He says he plans to win the race the same way he won his first two council elections…by being himself, outspoken and conservative on any issue he thinks is important.
“I’m pro-life, pro-family, pro-God, pro-gun, pro-American,” he says. “I believe in less government, lower taxes and more freedom.”
Yates and Thrasher say Hawkins and his autodialer have worn out their welcome. They hope voters will agree with them as they go door-to-door to discuss local issues in 25th district.