For months, pundits and political observers have offered various insights into the 2010 elections. This could be a big year for the Tea Party, for mainstream Republicans, for moderates or for challengers to incumbents. But those are national predictions.
WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how the Louisville mayor’s race may or may not conform to broad political narratives.
The lunch hour is winding down on a recent visit to Wick’s Pizza on Dixie Highway, where I met with Jason Perkey. Perkey works for two Democratic candidates who are challenging incumbent Republicans in southwest Louisville. The first is Marty Meyer, who is running against state Senator Dan Seum. The other is David Yates, who is facing Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins.
Seum and Hawkins have both spoken at Tea Party rallies, but Perkey doesn’t think that gives them an edge in their districts, despite the attention the party has received this election year. He says having two viable local candidates talking about local issues has energized southwestern Democrats.
“David has hit over 10,000 doors in the last few months…10,000 doors. Marty’s campaign, I think we’ve just hit over the 15,000 door mark,” says Perkey. “That means we have a ground game and we have been reaching people in their homes to share a level of urgency that we believe they need in order to turn out.”
If Meyer and Yates can close the enthusiasm gap in their party, Perkey says that will benefit Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer. But former Jefferson County Republican Party chair Brad Cummings doesn’t believe that will necessarily be the case.
“I wouldn’t be shocked to hear people aren’t pulling the straight D or straight R,” says Cummings.
Cummings says conservative voters are energized, and this is a good year for the GOP, but in Louisville, convincing Republicans to vote for Republicans isn’t the key to victory…it’s getting Democrats to either stay home or cross over, and he thinks voters are willing to do that in the mayor’s race.
“When you get to a position like the mayor, that’s more about leadership than it is about whether you’ve got the R or the D behind your name,” he says. “It’s more about what’s your vision for the future of the city.”
Polls have shown a close mayoral race, with many Democrats supporting Republican candidate Hal Heiner, though Fischer maintains a slight lead.
University of Louisville political science professor Dewey Clayton says crossover voters on both sides are drawn by individual issues, not any national movement or statewide campaigns.
“Of the races that we’re looking at, I would say probably the mayor’s race is one where people are looking more at the candidates and the issues because they seem to have come out and made a lot of statements on a lot of issues,” says Clayton. “I would think there would be less party line voting.”
The party faithful tend to dominate midterm election turnout. And Democrats far outnumber Republicans in Louisville. But Clayton expects the mayor’s race to be close to the finish. He says other elections—from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate—won’t likely sway voters any more than the mayoral candidates’ positions on issues like the student assignment plan, which has been at the center of recent television ads and candidates debates.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if that sort of will give people more information, and some people may make a decision based on the candidates’ stance on that issue in particular,” he says.
And the student assignment plan, just like local job attraction, government transparency and most of the other issues that have dominated the mayor’s race, doesn’t break along national party lines.