by Gabe Bullard
Of the eight Democrats running for mayor of Louisville, three of them either hold or have previously run for public office. They are: Metro Councilmen David Tandy and Jim King and businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Greg Fischer. In the first of two reports on the Democratic mayoral primary, WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how these three men are polling at the front of the pack, and are fighting to the end for undecided voters.
Just inside Greg Fischer’s campaign headquarters, there’s a sign on the wall that says, “The only thing that will keep us from winning is not doing the best job we are capable of doing.” Fischer was the first Democrat to enter the race. He’s won backing from high profile and wealthy Louisvillians and several labor unions. An April Bluegrass poll has him with a sizable lead and Fischer says he’s trying to maintain that momentum
“I’m sure my competitors will try to throw me off track and they’ve been trying to do that for months,” he says. “It hasn’t been successful and we’re not going to let that be successful in the final weeks of the campaign, either.”
The candidate who seems to be trying hardest to derail Fischer is Jim King. King recently released an ad criticizing Fischer’s business decisions and contributions he’s made to Republican candidates. Fischer, who used negative ads during his 2008 Senate campaign, responded with a video accusing King of lying to voters.
“Jim King is playing chainsaw politics, attacking me and not telling you the truth, again,” says Fischer in his ad.
Fischer says rather than spar with King, he wants to focus on his plan to create jobs and improve government. He touts his plethora of issues-oriented campaign teams as evidence of his goals and leadership ability. But this also warrants criticism from King.
“I hope voters don’t buy into that,” says King. “I hope the voters are looking for someone who understands what they’re talking about and who can really drill into the details.”
Bank owner, CPA and Metro Councilmember…Jim King recites a litany of legislation he’s steered through the council and his own cache of union endorsements as proof of his capabilities. But King holds third place in that same Bluegrass Poll, behind Fischer and David Tandy. He entered the race after a series of politically damaging stories in the press, but says he’s moving forward.
With a campaign focused on specific achievements and financed in part by large personal loans, King says he’s within reach of Fischer, needing the support of a few thousand undecided and uncommitted voters.
“Most people make their decisions on who they’re going to vote for in the last two or three weeks of the campaign,” he says. “So we believe that when people get serious about who they’re going to vote for, we think there’s only one choice.”
But all the candidates say they’ll push for undecided voters—they’ll have to. And while Fischer and King trade barbs on TV, Councilman David Tandy is taking a different approach.
“People are looking for someone who understands where they come from,” says Tandy. “Is just like them, is working to make ends meet and will take that mentality to the mayor’s office and fight for them.”
Tandy says he doesn’t have the wealth of King and Fischer—neither personally nor in his campaign, and that will be part of the message in his final push before next week’s vote.
“Change doesn’t happen when you continually, year after year after year, have the same families and the same power brokers making decisions as to how we’re going to lead this city and then expect new and different results,” he says.
While he may not have authored as much legislation as King, Tandy says he’s been an effective negotiator on the Metro Council—bringing all sides together. And his political closeness to Mayor Jerry Abramson is no detriment, he says, because he’s presenting himself as a change agent who can learn from mistakes and successes as he plots a new direction for the city.
Polling indicates that about one in four Democratic voters is undecided, and many of those who have chosen a candidate could easily be swayed. That could be enough to push Tandy, King or Fischer to victory, or even deliver a win to one of the five other Democrats in the race.