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Three Republicans Vying To Replace Heiner On Council

by Gabe Bullard

Of the 13 Metro Council seats up for election this year, only one is not being sought by an incumbent.

Republican Hal Heiner is seeking the mayor’s office and cannot run for a third term on the council representing the east-end district. Three Republicans and one Democrat have filed to run for Heiner’s seat.

Republican candidate and former vice-chair of the local Young Republicans Daniel Osborne says the councilman still dominates many conversations in the east-end district.

“People in general have had a very favorable impression of Hal Heiner and the job that he’s done and so I think they are looking for someone who will follow in that style,” he says.

Candidate Jerry Miller says closeness to Heiner’s policies is important. With the mayoral primary at the top of the ticket, Miller expects many district Republicans will turn out to vote on Tuesday.

“I think quite certainly it’s going to be a heavy turnout countywide for Republicans this year, and particularly in the 19th District where Hal has been a successful candidate twice,” he says.

Miller previously worked in state government and was briefly the chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party.

Businessman and retired detective Kaven Rumpel says the winning candidate will likely benefit from turnout for other races on the ballot as well.

“It’s not just the mayor. We’ve got Congress, we’ve got a lot of seats that we need to look at and I don’t think it’s just the mayor’s race. I think it’s the combination of a lot of things,” he says. “People are tired.”

Web designer and internet marketer Justin Chelf is the only Democrat seeking the 19th District seat.

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Next Louisville: Republican Candidates Prepare For Final Primary Push

by Gabe Bullard

In eight days, Republican voters in Jefferson County will choose a nominee who’s hoping to become Louisville’s first GOP mayor in decades.

The two frontrunners in the Republican primary are asking voters to choose between experience and activism. The experience candidate is two-term Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. The activist is Chris Thieneman. Both are developers in their private careers.

In the first poll from the Courier-Journal and WHAS-11, Heiner held 30 percent of the vote…4 points behind Thieneman. Weeks later, a similar poll put Heiner in the lead at 42 percent and Thieneman had dropped to 25.
In his campaign office on Ducthman’s Lane, Heiner reflects on the poll. He says when it comes time to choose a leader, many voters want someone with a history of policymaking.

“I think someone that has some experience in government, it gives them the ability to have a quicker start, and that’s my goal for this next administration—that it would hit the ground running,” he says.

As a councilman, Heiner has been a frequent critic and opponent of Mayor Jerry Abramson’s agenda. Thieneman has compared Heiner to the mayor, calling them both insiders and career politicians. But Heiner says after eight years in office, he’s hardly an insider. Further, he says the election isn’t a referendum on Abramson, and even if it were, his actions trump Theineman’s attacks.

“The next mayor needs to be able to not just stand out and say ‘That’s wrong and it shouldn’t be done,’ but actually pull people together from throughout the community and try to decide how to move forward and then actually move forward,” says Heiner.

After the first poll, Heiner launched television ads and continued campaigning in person. He gained momentum and says the campaign won’t change course to address shifts in the polls or attacks from opponents. But with nearly a quarter of voters undecided, Chris Thieneman is plotting his stretch run.

“I’ve been walking everywhere,” he says.

Thieneman has been campaigning door to door in many precincts, focusing on the edges of the county where Republican voters are the most concentrated. He also launched a television campaign last week.

“They’re not going to miss seeing me on television, any more than they’ve been watching my opponent,” says Thieneman.

By touting his history of criticizing Metro Government, Thieneman has positioned himself as the anti-Abramson and anti-establishment candidate, with hopes that dissatisfaction with the mayor and incumbents in general will resonate with GOP voters.

“I think the citizens now more than ever want someone who’s not a career politician,” he says. “If you notice Rand Paul in his commercials, that’s what he’s touting and it’s working.”

“That’s what I hear,” says Jonathan Roberston. “That’s what we need: we need somebody that’s not a politician, that’s not part of how things are.”

Robertson is also running for mayor. He says nobody in the Republican primary is more of an outsider than him. An IT professional and political newcomer, Robertson has promised to give the city a high-tech makeover if elected but with a single-digit showing the polls, Robertson says his message never caught on.

“Lots of people, I think, didn’t think I was serious,” he says. “They thought I got in it just because.”

Even though he acknowleges he’s a longshot, Robertson says he isn’t giving up. He’ll keep campaigning until the May 18th primary, and he says he may run for office again—as an outsider.

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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

Metro Council To Vote On KLC Resolution

By Gabe Bullard

A resolution that asks the Kentucky League of Cities to refund some of Louisville’s membership dues to the organization goes before the Metro Council Thursday for a final vote.

The resolution asks for about 38 thousand dollars, which is roughly half of Louisville’s membership fees from the last three years. It also requests a reduction in dues in the future.

The request comes after a state auditor’s report uncovered extravagant spending within the KLC.

Resolution co-sponsor Hal Heiner says he’s not expecting immediate action from the KLC. Instead, he hopes to bring the league’s leadership to the council to discuss the refund and reforms within the agency.

“There are several steps that the auditor has recommended for both KLC and KACo be implemented in those organizations to stop the inappropriate spending,” he says.

The KLC’s director has stepped down and the state legislature is poised to impose transparency guidelines on the league.

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A Look At The 19th District Council Race

When Republican Hal Heiner filed as a candidate for Louisville mayor, it meant he would have to give up his 19th District Metro Council seat at the end of the year. Now, four candidates are seeking to replace Heiner on the council.

The 19th District starts just east of Hurstbourne Parkway and stretches past the Gene Snyder to the northeastern border of Jefferson County. It’s a location that Heiner says is poised for development, and he hopes his successor on the council understands that.

“The 19th District is one of the top two districts in the county in terms of growth,” he says. “So growth is important, having a familiarity or willingness to jump into the planning and zoning process and understand that process.”

One of the three Republican contenders for Heiner’s seat is Daniel Osborne, who was vice-chair of the local Young Republicans last year. The father of five says he has a keen interest in family-related issues, but it was the district’s growth potential that brought him into the race.

“We have development going on without a lot of planning,” says Osborne. The build first, plan later mentality that we’ve gone through in the last few years needs to be addressed. Along with water pressure issues, there’s traffic flow issues in my area.”

The 19th district also contains a lot of land protected from development. And Heiner says the district’s eventual representative should understand how that property fits into the big picture.

“You know, a background relating to parks and open spaces is important. District 19th will be the trailhead for another 20 miles of the Louisville Loop, that will run down the 21st Century Park,” he says.

“I have until last August served on the board of the Kentucky State Parks Association, that I founded when I was commissioner of Kentucky State Parks,” says Republican candidate Jerry T. Miller.

Miller was parks commissioner during Governor Ernie Fletcher’s administration. He also just wrapped up a four month stint as chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. He says voters should look to his experience when they choose a new councilman.

Rounding out the Republican primary ballot is Kaven Rumpel, a businessman and retired police detective who moved to the district last April. He touts support from various business and labor leaders…and like Osborne and Miller, lists job creation and government transparency among his top issues. He says he’ll take Heiner’s program to post city checks online and expand the concept.

“They’re alleging downtown, by showing the check it’s transparency,” says Rumpel. “I’ve done bank fraud and worked a lot of banks, looking at their books, and it’s not transparency. You have to have the books, you have to have the bank statements and the checks. That’s transparency.”

The winner of the Republican primary will face a political newcomer in November. 21-year-old Democrat Justin Chelf doesn’t have a primary challenger, so he’s focused on the general election. Chelf says it may be easy for his opponents to dismiss him because of his age, but he plans to use it to his advantage.

“The younger people are the ones who are creative,” says Chelf. “Younger people are the ones who have all the ideas. Young people are the ones who have all the ideas and want to get somewhere.”

Chelf runs a small web design and internet marketing business and says he’s more knowledgeable about 21st century jobs than any of the Republican candidates. He’s also running as a Democrat in a district that has traditionally favored GOP candidates.

Heiner says he won’t endorse anyone in the race, and he declined to comment on any individual candidate. But he does say the key to victory is not campaign rhetoric or even a lot of money, but shoe leather, knocking on the doors of 19th District.

“Back when I first ran in 2002 and walked the district door-to-door twice,” he says. “That’s really what’s required for any candidate to be successful.”

And while there are different strategies for campaign events, fundraisers and getting the message out, each candidate says he plans to follow Heiner’s advice and walk the district, asking for votes, one-by-one.

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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

Firefighter Settlement Goes To Full Council This Week

On Thursday the Metro Council will vote on a 45 million dollar settlement with firefighters over miscalculated overtime.

The resolution is expected to pass, and would give the firefighters the first third of the settlement next month. The remaining 30 million dollars would be paid in two installments next year, but there’s still no final agreement on the source of that money.

Administration officials want to issue bonds to pay the firefighters. Some council members would rather dip into the city’s 65 million dollar rainy day fund, but the mayor’s office says that would damage the city’s credit rating. Councilman Hal Heiner says the council’s budget committee will take up the issue next year.

“The council is hoping to hear in January from one or more bond rating agencies on what level of reserve Louisville needs to hold, needs to maintain, in order to still have favorable interest rates in the future,” he says.

The second payment to firefighters would be due in March.

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In-Depth News Local News Next Louisville

A Look At The GOP's Chances In The Mayor's Race

The filing period for Kentucky elections is underway today (Wed). That means anyone seeking the office of Louisville mayor can now officially file the paperwork to be on the ballot for next year’s primaries.

Prior to this week, candidates could file letters of intent, which allowed them to raise money for the race. Five Democrats and a left-leaning independent are vying to fill Mayor Jerry Abramson’s shoes, but only two Republicans have declared their candidacy.

WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how GOP candidates might fare in the fight for an office that’s been dominated by Democrats.

It’s been 40 years since a Republican held the Louisville mayor’s office and there’s been only one mayor since the city and county governments merged in 2003—Democrat Jerry Abramson. He’s not seeking a third term in order to run for Lt. Governor in 2011.

And the two GOP candidates thus far hoping to fill the position are preparing their campaigns.

First, there’s developer Chris Thieneman.

“I’ve been thinking about this for years,” he says.

Thieneman gained notoriety leading the successful campaign against the library tax in 2007. He says that effort was conducted on a low budget, and he expects he can run a mayoral campaign with similar efficiency.

Last year, Thieneman declared his candidacy as a Republican in the primary for the Third District congressional seat held by Democrat John Yarmuth. He later dropped out and endorsed Yarmuth, then changed his mind again and sought the seat as a Republican. Thieneman says there won’t be any such about-face in the mayor’s race, but his willingness to distance himself from the GOP might be an asset.

“I’m not beholden to anyone, and that makes me an attractive candidate in the general election,” says Thieneman. “But I’m going to have a tougher time in the primary.”

“Chris and I are friends,” says Metro Councilman Hal Heiner.

Heiner is Thieneman’s opponent in the primary. He’s been raising money for the campaign longer than Thieneman and he has the support of many high profile Republicans in the area.

“I feel my seven years on the council is an advantage for a quick start,” he says.

Heiner and Thieneman both say they’re uncomfortable with, among other things, how the Abramson administration negotiates contracts and works with developers. They say Abramson hasn’t consulted with the council on development deals except to seek funding approval, though they acknowledge that he’s not required to, and they would take steps to limit executive power.

To further separate himself from Abramson, Heiner says, if elected, he will call for a full audit of the city to make otherwise closed records public.

“My goal in this run for government is to set a pattern and also laws in place, that for the next 50 or 100 years, we’ve set a culture in this government of openness, accountability and checks and balances that will last beyond whatever term I serve,” says Heiner.

But first Heiner has to get elected, which Republican mayoral hopefuls have struggled to do.

“A lot of it boils down to the economy,” says Filson Historical Society curator James Holmberg. “If people feel things are good for them and going in a good direction, they’re happy to stick with the party that’s in power.”

Holmberg says while the political makeup of city halls is often a reflection of the national and state political landscapes at a given time, a lot can happen in short order to sway local voters.

“Sometimes it was almost a reaction, like if there’d been a scandal, and people being people they tend then to want to go in the other direction,” he says. “Throw the bad guys out and go in a different direction.”

So Heiner and Theineman are positioning themselves as alternatives, hoping voter fatigue with Abramson and Democrats in general will win some converts. Mayor Abramson’s approval ratings have slipped in the last year, but they still hover above 50 percent.

Holmberg also points out that this is a historic election for merged government: subtracting Abramson’s popularity and adding the old county’s Republican-leaning history could level the field for the GOP.

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Local News

Some City Expenditures Posted Online

LouisvilleCheckbook_homepageItemized expenditures from Metro Louisville’s last three fiscal years are now online.

The website LouisvilleCheckbook.com lists spending receipts from fiscal 2006 through 2008. Records from 2009 will be posted later this year.

Metro Councilman Hal Heiner says the site is the first result of the e-transparency ordinance passed by the council in April.

“We’ve heard, really, throughout the community, ‘Where’s the money coming from and where is it being spent?'” says Heiner. “Whether that’s from employees in government, from groups outside of government and the council itself.”

Heiner says some details on how funds were spent are missing from the site, but they will be posted soon. Some information, though, cannot be made public.

“Payments to informants where someone may be in danger, salary information that’s available from other sources has been redacted as well,” he says. “But lodging, for instance, hotel lodging, travel for even individuals within government—any expenditure, essentially, other than something that’s protected by law.”

Records for 2010 and beyond will be posted on the city’s main website starting early next year. At that point, Louisville Checkbook dot com will be merged with the new information.

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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.