Louisville Metro Council members’ endorsement of candidate Marilyn Parker over incumbent Jon Ackerson, R-18, in this year’s primary has created a rift in the caucus, but GOP staffers are downplaying the division.
Six of the eight remaining Republican members have publicly supported Parker, a former congressional candidate and Tea Party activist who has flirted with controversial issues in the past.
Several GOP members have alleged Ackerson has undermined their agenda over the past four years. Only councilmen James Peden, R-23, and Stuart Benson, R-20, are not backing Parker.
Minority Caucus Director Stephen Haag says council Republicans will remain professional and focused on serving their constituents, despite the endorsement.
“The Metro Council is used to having people on both political sides and divisions and discussions with people who have differences in opinion on political issues. I’m hopeful that we will not have any problems within the caucus or on the council related to the upcoming election, whether it’s primary or general,” he says.
But the leader of the Republican caucus says GOP members cannot trust their colleague and Ackerson lacks integrity, adding he has demonstrated he cares more about personal political gain than serving his constituents.
“We have grave concerns on if he’s really doing it for himself or if he’s actually serving the public. Each of our caucus members, we have talked about this, we are here to serve and not to be served. Unfortunately, Mr. Ackerson believes that he should be served and not to serve,” says Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Fleming, R-7.
Several other Republicans have criticized Ackerson for siding with Democrats on key issues to close the debate on union contracts and ethics reforms. He has also been slammed for working with the majority party on redistricting, which resulted in little changes to the 18th District seat.
Other sources have alleged Ackerson traded being the necessary vote for council Democrats to shut down conversations being pushed by the GOP in exchange for keeping his district safe. During the redistricting process, the east Louisville Republican submitted his new map with the Democrats.
“Councilman Ackerson has always been willing to work with the majority caucus as other members of his caucus have from time-to-time. As far as any deal being cut to spare him of any drastic change to his district, there is no deal that was made,” says Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt. “The way the redistricting plan was finalized is all 26 members had a say in how their districts were drawn. I believe Councilman Ackerson had expressed some concern to our leadership that some members of his caucus would probably alter his district and that is the reason why he ended up being with the Democratic plan.”
However, Fleming believes Ackerson acted in his own self-interests in standing against GOP initiatives and adds the caucus has discussed him leaving the party.
“It’s his decision if he wants to switch parties. Can I trust an individual to either carrying a banner or to come forth and give me the forthright on an issue, I have a very strong concern coming forward with us in a truthful manner,” he says. “I’m not going to force him out. But I have a very difficult time trusting Mr. Ackerson based on at least four cases that I can think about. The caucus has talked about Mr. Ackerson and his activities.
Republican caucus staff say the GOP’s policy initiatives will not be affected by the recent endorsement and they work with all members equally.
The council GOP is scheduled to meet as a group this Thursday.
Councilman Ackerson was unavailable for comment.