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Local News Next Louisville WFPL News Department Podcast

Next Louisville: The Democratic Mayoral Primary, Part One

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.

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Local News Next Louisville

Fischer And Heiner Pull Ahead In Latest Poll

by Gabe Bullard

Democrat Greg Fischer and Republican Hal Heiner have pulled ahead in their respective primaries in the Louisville mayor’s race, according to a new poll.

The latest Bluegrass Poll commissioned by the Courier-Journal and WHAS-11 puts Fischer ahead of the seven other Democrats in the race with 31 percent of the vote. Behind him are Metro Councilman David Tandy with 16 percent and Councilman Jim King with 13 percent.

A poll last month put Fischer at 20 percent, ahead of Tandy, who had 17, and King, who had 12.

Councilman Hal Heiner leads opponent Chris Thieneman 42 to 25 percent in the Republican primary. That’s a reversal from last month’s poll. It put Thieneman ahead of Heiner by 4 points.

The poll, conducted by Survey USA, also found that one in four voters is undecided. A total of eight Democrats, three Republicans and at least three independent candidates are running for mayor.

The results:

Democrats

  • Fischer – 31%
  • Tandy – 16%
  • King – 13%
  • Allen – 7%
  • White – 4%
  • Farnsley – 2%
  • Marshall – 2%
  • Moxley – 2%
  • Undecided – 23%

Republicans

  • Heiner – 42%
  • Thieneman – 25%
  • Robertson – 9%
  • Undecided 24%
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Local News Next Louisville

Tandy Kicks Off Campaign

Louisville Metro Councilman David Tandy has officially launched his campaign for mayor.

Tandy kicked off his candidacy Thursday with an event at Union Station and the release of a multi-page policy report.

The report outlines Tandy’s belief that education, homelessness, employment and transportation are all linked, and his plan to address each issue as it relates to the others.

“You can’t have more good-paying jobs if you don’t have an educated workforce that’s ready to go into those jobs on day one,” he says. “And you can’t have a good educational system if you have children worrying each and every day how they’re going to find the next meal or have a roof over their head.”

Tandy says spreading word of this platform will help him overcome the fundraising gap between him and some of his better-financed opponents.

“I think that what you’ll find at the end of the day is they’ll vote for the person they believe can best move the community forward and I believe they’ll vote for me as that candidate,” he says.

Tandy says he plans to collect many small donations during the campaign. He is one of eleven people who have announced a run for mayor.

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Local News Next Louisville

Council Members Balance Campaigns, Legislation

King1Three members of the Louisville Metro Council—Democrats David Tandy and Jim King and Republican Hal Heiner—are seeking their party’s nomination in next year’s race for mayor.

That has some wondering what, if any, impact it could have on the legislative process as primary election day approaches.

WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how the three councilmen plan to balance their campaigns with their roles as legislators….

When he announced his candidacy for mayor this year, Jim King said he wanted to keep the competition out of the council. Months later, he says that’s still the plan.

“We don’t talk mayoral politics at City Hall.”

In fact, King says running against colleagues in and out of his party has enhanced the race, making the competition more cordial.

“We certainly have mutual respect for each other, and so I know for my part, I can’t imagine running negative ads against a colleague,” he says.

President David Tandy

One of King’s Democratic opponents, outgoing council President David Tandy, agrees. He doesn’t believe the race will

get in the way of council business, even though things may get heated outside of the chamber leading up to the primary.

“There are times when you scrimmage each other before the game,” says Tandy. “The players will scrimmage each other and go after it vigorously, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.”

“There’s a level of respect there, and I really don’t see that creeping into council operations,” says Councilman Hal Heiner.

As a Republican, Heiner has had political differences with Tandy and King on council matters. If he ends up facing one of his colleagues in the general election, Heiner agrees with King that the discourse should stay civil as the campaign heats up.

Councilman Hal Heiner

“I’m hoping that’s the case,” he says. “There is a high level of respect between the members of the council and my hope is that will carry through the next year.”

But not everyone on the council believes that’s likely to happen.

“The potential for that position being a naïve position, it seems to me, is very real,” says Democratic Councilman Tom Owen.Owen ran for mayor while serving on the old city’s Board of Alderman in 1998.

“The potential for using the council for the advancement of a political identity or to be identified with a political issue or to use an issue to embarrass an opponent who might also be on the council,” he says. “I just think we’re being naïve if we deny that potential.”

Owen doesn’t question the candidates’ dedication to running a friendly race. But with three council members campaigning on their legislative records, Owen says it’s possible that campaign disagreements could come up during council business.

“I just think there is a tendency in the heat of a campaign that a candidate legislator would be frayed and might, in a weary moment, say something, that upon further reflection, he or she wishes they could delete from the record,” says Owen.

Ward-Pugh

But potential campaign tensions in the chamber wouldn’t likely be limited to candidates on the council. With six Democrats and two Republicans seeking the mayor’s office, some council members are supporting outside candidates. Tina Ward-Pugh, for example, supports Democrat Tyler Allen.

Ward-Pugh decided not to seek the council presidency next year in part because of her endorsement of Allen in the mayor’s race.

But even though she recognizes the race’s potential for tension in the council, Ward-Pugh doesn’t think infighting is a foregone conclusion, even as other council members prepare to endorse the candidates of their choice.

“I believe the rest of the council members are going to step up and do their part to ensure that it doesn’t happen,” she says.

Ward-Pugh says council and campaign issues will overlap, but she has faith in her colleagues to put progress over politics

“No matter who wins or loses, we’ve all got to work together the next day, and that’s what’s important,” says Ward-Pugh.

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Local News

Clothing Pickup For Flood Victims Set

DonationsThe Salvation Army and Louisville Metro Government will distribute clothing to victims of the August 4th flood next week.

After the flood, four drop-off sites were set up downtown. About 50 boxes of clothes were collected, and flood victims can pick up the clothes on December 12th.

Major Keath Biggers with the Salvation Army says he’s not expecting any fraud at the event, but anyone picking up clothes will have their address compared to a list of flooded areas.

“We’re not going to be able to do extensive casework to determine whether they were actually affected or not,” he says. We’re just going to take by faith that they were affected, and otherwise I don’t know if they would come out if they really were not in need of the clothing items.”

Metro Council President David Tandy says limits on how many items can be taken will be determined on a case by case basis.

“The guidelines in terms of how much a particular individual family or individual will be able to receive will be determined by the Salvation Army’s guidelines in terms of how assistance is given,” he says.

The pickup will be held at the Salvation Army headquarters from 11 AM to 3 PM.

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Local News Next Louisville

Thieneman Enters Mayor's Race

Louisville developer Chris Thieneman has become the first Republican to announce his candidacy in the mayor’s race.

Thieneman declared his candidacy this week after deciding to drop a lawsuit over the use of city funds to renovate a bowling alley in 4th Street Live. The renovation has prompted a battle in city government over the power of the mayor’s office. Thieneman is campaigning in part on a platform of changing the balance of power to give the Metro Council more authority.

Thieneman ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, and in 2007 he led the successful campaign against the library tax. He’s the first Republican to enter the mayor’s race, though councilman Hal Heiner is considering a bid.

Metro Council President David Tandy, councilman Jim King and businessman Greg Fischer have all declared their candidacies for mayor as Democrats. Coffee shop owner and professor Nimbus Couzin is running as an independent.

All are running to succeed Mayor Jerry Abramson, who is seeking the Lieutenant Governor’s post on Governor Steve Beshear’s ticket.

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In-Depth News Local News Next Louisville WFPL News Department Podcast

Democrats Prepare For Mayoral Bids

Louisville’s Mayor Jerry Abramson’s announcement last week that he will seek Lieutenant Governor’s post in 2011 rather than re-election in 2010 came after weeks of speculation that he was plotting just such a move. In those weeks, talk of possible successors to Abramson also picked up. Even though only one candidate has started campaigning, the fight for the Democratic nomination could be a 3-, 4- or 5-way race.

Abramson

So far, only Democrat Greg Fischer has declared his candidacy for Metro Mayor. Fischer is a local businessman who voters may remember from his recent bid for Mitch McConnell’s U.S. Senate seat. Fischer lost the Democratic primary to Bruce Lunsford, but says he’s ready re-enter politics. And one of his top issues is resolving some frustrations in the old county that have developed after merger.

“Before merger the urban core was looked at as the center. Now post merger we need to look at the entire Jefferson County being the core of a greater region.”

Fischer says many residents in the old county may feel as if they haven’t yet benefited from the merger, and it will be up to the next mayor to fulfill the promises made six years ago.

“The Abramson administration is certainly making progress in that area. It did a lot of heavy lifting in terms of merging government. Now the next step is to continue that outreach, so that no matter where you go in the county people feel like they are feeling the benefits of a merged government.”

“How do we collectively make some of the promises a merged government real for people all across

President David Tandy

Jefferson County in all of its quarters? Regardless of what your socioeconomic background may be, regardless of what neighborhood you may live in.”

Metro Council President David Tandy is seriously considering a run for mayor. His 4th District includes downtown and parts of several adjacent neighborhoods. Some insiders see him as the heir apparent to Abramson, though he may have difficulty keeping up financially with Fischer. Tandy says his decision will depend on solid political and financial support and the backing of his family, which twelve weeks ago grew by one when his wife Carolyn had a son.

“We have a very busy household in the Tandy family but nonetheless, we’re a family that believes in public service. Carol and I met in public service, so this is something we’re committed to.”

Family matters could be a detriment to another possible candidate, 10th District Metro Councilman Jim King. King, a former council president, faced some criticism over his fundraising role in daughter Katie’s 2008 campaign for a district judgeship.

King, however, has built up political capital as co-chair of the council’s budget committee during. He helped shape a lean budget that earned unprecedented bipartisan support. Calls to his office for comment on the mayor’s race were not returned.

Rounding out the rumored ballot is Tyler Allen, who co-founded the local transportation group 8664 that’s proposing an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project.

“The values that are represented in the 8664 movement clearly would be instructive and informative for me”

But Allen says his involvement with the group doesn’t make him a single-issue candidate, even though he says transportation is crucial to a successful city.

“It would clearly play a role in whatever I did. The reclamation of the city and continuing on an effort to make it a vibrant, energetic place that’s attractive to new people as well as pleasant to those who live here.”

Joe Gerth is the Courier-Journal’s political writer. He says Tandy, King and Allen are all strong candidates, but the race is still wide open for someone who isn’t a well-known council member or businessman.

“There is no female candidate at this point and also there are no candidates in the Democratic primary who come from outside the Watterson.”

Gerth says voters could embrace such an outsider.

“If they are a legitimate candidate otherwise they could make a pretty good push for getting some of those suburban votes and yeah, they could pull it off. If you’ve got five candidates in the race, all you need is 21% if everyone else splits up the vote evenly.”

One Republican side, Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, who lost to Abramson in 2006, has announced that he won’t make another run for mayor next year, but the GOP isn’t without potential candidates. Former Lieutenant Governor Steve Pence is being encouraged to run. He benefits from his time in state government and his decision to part ways with Gov. Ernie Fletcher after the 2007 hiring scandal. Meanwhile in South Louisville, where anti-Abramson sentiments run high, supporters of state Senator Dan Seum recently held a rally encouraging him to run for mayor.

County GOP Chairman Brad Cummings says Pence and Seum are both strong prospects for the party, and would likely run on a platform of fiscal responsibility.

Though the election is more than a year away, both Cummings and Gerth says the next month will likely hold a flurry of expected…and surprise…announcements.

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Local News Next Louisville

Tandy Still Considering Mayoral Bid

Louisville Metro Council President David Tandy says he’s still considering a bid for Metro Mayor.

Tandy is thought to be a prime candidate to replace Mayor Jerry Abramson, who has joined Governor Steve Beshear’s 2011 ticket and will not seek re-election next year.

Tandy says his ultimate decision depends on how his family feels about his candidacy and on what he hears from friends, political allies and possible supporters.

“I’m in the process of talking with a number of different people, and at the appropriate time I’ll let the people of the community know what my intent is and what type of structure we’ll have and how we’ll proceed from there,” he says.

Councilman Jim King and 8664 co-founder Tyler Allen have also expressed interest in mayoral bids. Businessman and former Democratic Senate candidate Greg Fischer has declared his candidacy.

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Officials To Ask Cordish For Answers In Baltimore

Louisville Metro Council President David Tandy officials will accompany Louisville’s internal auditor and economic development director on a trip to the Cordish Company’s headquarters in the coming weeks.

The group is looking for an itemized report of how Cordish spent a $950 thousand forgivable loan from the city. The company used the money to renovate a bowling alley at 4th Street Live, but will not say exactly how the money was spent, calling the information proprietary.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says he trusts that the money was spent appropriately, but Tandy says city contracts should require transparency.

“There’s typically language in the agreement that says you will have to disclose how those funds are being utilized so that you can make sure those funds are being utilized in the manner they were intended to be given,” he says.

Tandy says the group will likely be shown an itemized report, which he hopes to release to the public after the trip.

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City Continues Fight Against Food Deserts

Another farmers market has opened in urban Louisville.

The market on Gray Street joins markets in Phoenix Hill, Smoketown and the California neighborhood. All of them are aimed at eliminating so-called food deserts—areas where Metro Health Director Dr. Adewale Troutman says healthy food is hard to find.

“The response, then, is to find a systemic and structural way to address those issues,” says Dr. Troutman. “One of those is to look at healthy in a hurry corner stores, which we’ve done—we have two in operation now—and expanding the number of farmers’ markets where fresh fruits and vegetables are usually available and affordable.”

Metro Council President David Tandy says another farmers market is in the works for West Louisville.