Louisville’s Upcoming Election Cycle Is Crucial — Here’s How We Should Approach It

Next year, because of an election cycle that puts numerous powerful positions up for grabs, Louisville has the opportunity to start moving toward what it has spent this century pretending to be: a progressive, forward-thinking city that values equity and change.  Currently, Louisville is still a heavily-segregated, old-money town where the oligarchy sometimes says slick things in public, and then tries to pull the strings and keep a death grip on the status quo.

Remember SCALA, the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda, the private, semi-secret group of wealthy prominent executives formed in 2018, who meet to collectively move the city and state policies in certain directions. That still exists in a slightly different capacity, as it has gone through a name change and continues to morph.   

They’re not even that subtle about it.  

And that’s just a reminder of one of our somehow lesser political problems.

Louisville has a tremendous gap in equity and opportunity; barring a miracle, the city is once again going to shatter its homicide record; people’s daily lives and pocket books are still drained from a lingering pandemic; the school system is caught in perpetual turmoil. 

We have an inept mayor’s office, a volatile police department that’s walking on thin ice with the Justice Department, one Senator who dives into conspiracy theories, another who gets off on killing any sort of progress, and a solid, but retiring, Congressman whose recent announcement opens the door to an unpredictable election cycle. 

The good news is that a lot of important seats are up for election in 2022, which is an opportunity for fresh ideas and dynamic leadership. The gravity of the upcoming elections in this town can’t be overstated. Putting the right people in the right positions — while not a magic remedy for the city’s heavily-layered problems — could enable Louisville to better create stability, if not prosperity, for everyone.

The questionable aspect is whether Louisville will capitalize on this opportunity, or just continue to run the same course over and over again. 

In 2022, Mayor Greg Fischer’s office and John Yarmuth’s Congressional seat will see new faces, as the former is term limited and the latter is calling it a career. Whoever wins those races will have an enormous impact on the city.

Sen. Rand Paul is up for reelection, facing a scrappy and magnetic Charles Booker.

There are also elections in the General Assembly, but that’s virtually hopeless. The best we can ask for there is that the staunch, old-guard, penny-pinching Republicans maintain control of the party’s slobbering mad-dog, bright-red fringe that worships at the altar of Matt Bevin and, if given significant power, would probably turn every nonprofit organization and community center into a parking lot and make us recite the pledge of allegiance before entering Walmart. 

This isn’t an endorsement column. It’s too early for that, for the most part. But I’m urging you to constantly question the front-runners and consider the underdogs. We need to all dig in to each candidate’s track record and belief system, what they stand for and why they’re running, because we can’t afford to follow the same old patterns. Stay tuned in, donate money, have a sliver of hope — even though it’s completely fair to be jaded — and be politically active. A positive sign is that many people in the city are motivated right now, and that should elevate and bring more attention to under-the-radar campaigns, making races more visible and more contested. There are some real outsider candidates that weren’t manufactured in populist political machine sheds. A lot of them have solid platforms. Give them a chance. 

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