Mayor Greg Fischer recently found two new challengers for his third and final mayoral bid — one from the Republican right, Councilwoman Angela Leet, one from the progressive left, Ryan Fenwick, and independent Jackie Green.
The saying goes that: If everyone’s mad at you, you must be doing something right.
In Fischer’s case, I expect it to hold true.
We’ll have time to fully analyze the candidates and campaigns, but it’s the opening argument from Leet that it tells us where the race is heading. Right out of the gate, on Terry Meiners’ WHAS radio show, she acknowledged she is not blindly Republican: She didn’t vote for Donald Trump, doesn’t agree with his use of Twitter, and disagreed with Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to end gun violence through prayer.
Sure, these are common-sense hurdles, but they are important nonetheless.
Then, there is Leet’s campaign announcement video, a map to where she thinks Fischer is vulnerable. He would be well served to heed her words.
Leet’s primary focus is on crime, drugs and education. In her video she says, “We’ll tackle the drug crisis that’s tearing families apart and bringing crime to our streets,” and “we’ll make sure schools work for everyone.” She indicated she would immediately seek to replace police Chief Steve Conrad and the Louisville Metro Police leadership if elected.
It can be argued that crime, education and quality of life are the foremost responsibilities of any mayor, but Leet sees an opening on these issues — especially on crime.
Louisville may end a second consecutive year of record-breaking homicides. As Fischer and the LMPD rightly point out: Crime is actually down, despite homicides being up. But in an election, that distinction doesn’t matter — homicides and gun violence are more jarring to an uneasy electorate. And what if 2018 is worse? Then, every violent crime story on local news is bookended by campaign ads about record homicide rates under Fischer and Conrad.
Leet is already pointing to her efforts to bring a no-confidence vote on Conrad to the Metro Council. In a campaign, this effort will be spun as proof that she has the better judgement and is more willing to make the tough decisions to be mayor.
Just this week, Leet issued a press release titled: “Councilwoman Angela Leet Calls Out Fischer Administration as Louisville Surpasses 100 Murders.” Fair or not, it is the game plan.
The homicide problem in Louisville is unimaginably difficult and complicated. It’s not Fischer’s fault. It’s not Conrad’s fault. That said, unwarranted blame comes with positions of leadership as much as unwarranted praise — everything is the mayor’s fault, just as everything is the president’s fault.
What’s worse is Fischer could become politically vulnerable if he’s campaigning on the triumph of the new Omni Hotel, or soccer stadium, while people die in the streets. It’s a juxtaposition that could seem callous and out-of-touch.
The tea leaves still seem to be in Fischer’s favor: A Democrat has been mayor of Louisville since 1969. Outside of two terms (from 1961-1969), a Democrat has been mayor since 1933. Incumbents, regardless of office, also maintain a huge advantage. And in this, the first election under total Republican control of Washington and the Commonwealth of Kentucky… I don’t expect it will be a good year to run as a Republican anywhere — even Alabama.
Plus, while we have our share of issues, Louisville still has a lot of great things happening — things are being built — which is always a good sign for incumbent politicians. A good barometer for a mayor is answering this question: How would you describe Louisville to others? If you start bragging on your hometown, your mayor’s in good shape.
Mayors are usually held responsible by their constituents for how they deal with disasters — natural or otherwise — which are almost entirely out of their control. For instance, the 2009 snow apocalypse in Washington, D.C. essentially buried then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. On the other side, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu deserves an award for his courage and leadership in handling the city’s Confederate monuments issue.
Fischer has proven over his seven years in office that he is ready to respond to the challenges and disasters. He’s the type of public servant or person who answers the call in an emergency. Leet is making that call.
Speaking of, what are we doing about those Confederate monuments around town?