Issue September 1, 2009

Jerry’s kids

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

The relationship between Metro Council colleagues and mayoral hopefuls David Tandy and Jim King should make for an interesting theater of personalities in the coming months.

It’s still early in this campaign, but so far King, D-10, looks slightly better, having co-sponsored a bill that would make public how businesses in partnership with Metro spend tax dollars — yet another law based on the city’s oft-criticized relationship with The Cordish Cos.

And although Council President Tandy, D-4, sent the initial letter asking Cordish for details on how it spent a $950,000 city loan, he faltered after signing a confidentiality agreement with the Baltimore-based developer that barred him from discussing the loan details.

Some City Hall staffers and legislative aides question whether an already fractured majority caucus will accomplish anything in the coming year. The Democrats can barely agree over hiring or firing staff, and a public fight would be unnecessary and unwise. Don’t expect the caucus to officially support either candidate. Its members, however, are free to get behind whomever they choose.

Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, for instance, is driving around with a bumper sticker supporting mayoral candidate Greg Fischer, a Louisville businessman.

Officially, council Democrats say everything will run smoothly as the two jockey for the party’s nomination. Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, chairman of the Democratic caucus, says they work well together and their campaigning won’t cause any friction. As for his candidate of choice, Johnson acknowledges he is supporting King.

“He’s always been my friend and I’ve known him for a long time. I think he’ll do a good job as mayor. A lot better job than our present mayor is doing,” Johnson says.

During our interview, when asked about his own future, Johnson also announced a candidacy — for council president.

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Most local media outlets have overlooked the mayoral candidacy of west Louisville resident Connie Marshall, a Democrat. It might be easy to blame the media, but then again it is difficult to get in contact with the long-shot candidate, considering she’s paranoid about talking on her cell phone for more than a few minutes.

In a letter to the Kentucky Democratic Party and Secretary of State Trey Grayson — which she also mailed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama — Marshall complained about a lack of coverage before writing that Metro Police and the FBI are following her.

“I fear for my life,” she wrote. Marshall has made similar allegations before, during the period at the start of council meetings in which the public is invited to speak. She usually talks about government eavesdropping, surveillance and other tinfoil-hat stuff.

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For the most part, the Democratic primary field for Louisville mayor is filling out as predicted, with the exception of one holdover: Tyler Allen. The 8664 co-proprietor is expected to enter the race after Labor Day.

No Republican candidate has stepped up, however, and observers are wondering why. Though a number of names have been trotted out, it is beginning to look like the GOP is a bit dazed and confused.

Some of the rumors about would-be Republican candidates have been entertaining if nothing else. For instance, the idea that Councilman Doug Hawkins, R-25, is running for mayor is a hoot in political circles. But if they’re serious about 2010, then Republicans are going to need more than just a warm body.

Sources close to attorney Steve Pence say he’s the GOP frontrunner if he chooses to be, but the cheerleaders are starting to believe he’s leaning toward not running. Insiders say being mayor is something Pence wants, but a successful law practice and family are making him reconsider. Expect a decision around Labor Day, which has become the unofficial primary kick-off.

In the meantime, GOP consultants, officials and activists have been recruiting Councilman Hal Heiner, R-19, as a backup candidate.

Earlier this year the East End Republican told LEO he wasn’t interested. The anointment by the GOP godfathers obviously helped boost interest and ego.

“I’m looking at running for mayor,” Heiner said during an interview Monday. “I won’t make a final decision until mid-September. I want to take some time to talk to my family, also listen to community and business leaders. After that I’ll decide. I won’t drag this thing out.”

Dubbed “Mr. No” by one official in the Abramson administration after a council hearing over the stalled Museum Plaza project, Heiner has been a leading proponent of Metro government transparency and led the fight against the library tax, which voters thumped in 2006.

Heiner’s entry would also mean he’d have to relinquish his council seat — his term is set to expire next year — which would pluck one of the more competent members from an already thin 10-member Republican caucus. It’s a risky gamble, but one Heiner is likely to take.