In Depth: The Louisville Mayor’s Race

by Gabe Bullard on November 1, 2010

When Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson announced last year that he would not seek re-election, and will instead run for Lieutenant Governor in 2011, fourteen candidates sought to replace him. After primaries, endorsements and attrition, two active candidates remain—Democrat Greg Fischer and Republican Hal Heiner.

WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how the two have campaigned for the office and where they stand now:

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Fischer was the first to declare his candidacy after Abramson’s announcement. He said his campaign was about one thing: “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Fischer has campaigned heavily on his experience as a businessman. He says he would create an office of innovation and other posts in Metro Government to lure businesses into the city.

“Government can help create a climate for businesses to grow, and then it needs to get out of the way,” he says. “Government, through the mayor, can convene business leaders, nonprofit leaders to ask ‘Where do you need help?'”

Fischer has been criticized for being too similar to Abramson. His communications manager is a former Abramson spokesperson, and he’s earned the mayor’s endorsement. But while he acknowledges Abramson’s contributions, Fischer says he would take a more business-like approach to running the city.

“The city hasn’t had a mayor that’s been a businessperson and an entrepreneur for over 50 years,” says Fischer. “What you do when you go in into any new company or any new organization is take a look at the resources you have and are they best utilized?”

Ever since he announced his candidacy, Republican Hal Heiner has said as mayor he would be a departure from what he called the city establishment’s status quo. He says if elected, he will call for a full audit of Metro Government on his first day in office.

“Some of that information will come back, it’ll be the good the bad and the ugly…possibly,” he says. “That just needs to be released to public.”

Heiner is also a Metro Councilman and has been a frequent critic of Abramson since merger. But he praises the mayor for keeping government services running and leading the newly merged government through its formative years. But he adds that waste and better ways of operating the city have been overlooked.

“There is a hopefulness, an expectation, that Louisville has underperformed its potential,” he says. “And that’s driving me”

Heiner has been criticized for his socially-conservative views. He voted against the Fairness Ordinance and donated thousands of dollars to a group that was fighting same-sex marriage. He says he’ll enforce the Fairness Ordinance and that his social views won’t matter in the mayor’s office.

For all their differences on the campaign trail, Heiner and Fischer have quite a bit in common. Heiner, too, has said he will create a more business friendly atmosphere in Metro Government. He’s contends Fischer has co-opted his plans to reform education, re-evaluate city services and to scale back the Ohio River Bridges Project if it will be too expensive. Both candidates have released books of their policies. Heiner’s is more detailed, and Fischer’s looks further into the future.

“I know we’re losing a good man,” says south Louisville resident Steve Boldery. “Jerry Abramson’s done a fabulous job.”

On Fourth Street, days before the election, Boldery takes a cigarette break. He’s leaning toward voting for Heiner Tuesday, but says he doesn’t expect any mayor to match Abramson’s popularity, success and longevity.

“The next guy that comes in will never stay that long. They’ll vote him out,” he says. “You’re not going to replace a 21-year mayor.”

For more on this and several other races, visit The Edit.

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