Sat November 3, 2012
What to Expect in Louisville Metro Council Races
The even-numbered districts in the Louisville Metro Council are up for election this year with only a half of them contested races.
Since 2010, Democrats have held a commanding 17-to-9 majority and they are expected to keep their majority even if they lose a seat or two.
Republican Kirt Jacobs is challenging Democratic incumbent Tom Owen, who is seeking his third term in office.
Jacobs is a former economic development officer who has run an innovative campaign that has utilized social networking and other independent media outlets to get his message out. But observers point out the two have very similar ideas, and GOP candidate running in the Democratic-leaning district that encompasses most of the Highlands neighborhood is considered a long-shot.
There had been speculation that Owen would not run again, but the 72-year-old U of L historian says he still has the energy needed to do the job.
Democratic Councilman Rick Blackwell is facing a political newcomer in Richard Rosenberger, a 47-year-old Republican.
The race has focused primarily on development around Dixie Highway, with Blackwell citing a corridor study that secured $5 million in state funding to improve traffic congestion and pedestrian walkways. But Rosenberger is telling voters they need to “take out the trash” in this election, adding that Blackwell ignores constituents and smaller projects.
Besides development issues, Rosenberger says he also differs from Blackwell because favors self-imposed term limits. Blackwell argues if council members are serving their constituents then voters should determine when their tenure is up.
Councilman Bob Henderson announced his retirement earlier this year, and over a half dozen candidates were vying for the District 14 seat at one time.
Democrat Cindi Fowler and Republican Bob Heuglin are facing off in what could be a pick-up for the GOP. The far southwestern Louisville neighborhoods are considered a swing-district, where many conservative Democrats reside.
Fowler, however, has served as Henderson’s legislative aide for the past two years and knows the district well. She has been endorsed by state Rep. Jon Jenkins.
Heuglin is a realtor and political activist, who says he is against Metro Government bans and argues the city has put up too many restrictions on personal freedom. State Senate candidate Chris Thieneman has endorsed him.
Few city lawmakers are as outspoken as Republican Councilman Kelly Downard, who represents the bulk of the city’s northeastern suburbs.
Democrat Tim Martin, a Louisville attorney and retired Army lieutenant colonel, is challenging Downard. He says the council needs new ideas and should root out corruption.
Martin calls himself a fiscal conservative who favors the tax base with new business development and cutting discretionary funds, which has been something that council Republicans have called for in the past.
If re-elected, Downard has announced he will retire after this term, but argues the council needs leaders familiar with looming budget shortfalls and infrastructure problems.
Tea Party Republican Marilyn Parker surprised many observers when she upset Councilman Jon Ackerson in the GOP primary. The nurse and political activist is now considered the favorite against Democrat Teague Ridge in the East End district.
Parker continues to highlight the need for fiscal responsibility and tighter ethics in Metro Government, but she has been hammered for her past controversial comments.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Parker has tried to moderate her positions and taken down most Tea Party references on her website.
Ridge is a 33-year-old entrepreneur and musician, who Parker has said is too liberal to represent the Republican-leaning district. For the most part, Ridge has struggled to get his message out but touts an endorsement from Ackerson as a sign that Parker is too extreme.
Democrat Joseph Cohen and Republican incumbent Stuart Benson are running a relatively tame contest compared to other contested races.
Benson has remained under the radar as a city lawmaker since taking office, but he points out that District 20 has seen the fastest rate of growth compared to other areas.
In his campaign, he advocates for better infrastructure, such as larger roads to accommodate traffic and an improved sewage and water system.
Cohen is an attorney and political newcomer, who agrees that the district has short-term concerns, but also needs to develop a 25-year-plan to accommodate its growth. He says he will work with council members and Mayor Greg Fischer to create a vision for the district, which includes Jeffersontown, Fisherville and Douglass Hills neighborhoods.
Robert Zoeller Jr. was a Republican until he registered as a Democrat earlier this year after taking a break from voting and politics for over 15 years. He is challenging Republican Councilman Robin Engel, who as chairman of the Appropriations Committee has been an outspoken critic of discretionary spending.
Engel says Zoeller is not a serious candidate, because he hasn’t invested any money to tell voters what his positions and views are. But part of the reason Zoeller chose to run was his frustration with money in politics and he has refused to fundraise.
Zoeller says wants to take money for downtown projects such as Whiskey Row and invest them into infrastructure, and has also criticized the use of discretionary funds.
Democratic Councilman Brent Ackerson is running a vigorous campaign against Republican challenger Sarah Provancher.
Ackerson has close to $90,000 in his campaign coffers, which is an impressive amount in a council race. The one-term city lawmaker highlights improvements to major roads and other beautification projects, but he has also used campaign mailers to attack his opponent, arguing Provancher is unfamiliar with the district and criticized her for not being a Louisville native.
But Provancher, who works in public relations, has proven to be a well-rounded candidate. She has a platform that includes a plan to grow small businesses, improve public safety and communication in the district.
She says Ackerson is not engaged with constituents and does not attend neighborhood meetings.
Provancher has also received some donations from big name donors, such as Papa John’s found John Schnatter and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s political action committee.