Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Louisville metro council 6th district race is a mess

It's kind of a long story, but the Louisville Metro Council election in my district (6th) looks like it's going to be a huge mess.

Back in 2008, Ken Herndon ran against the incumbent, George Unseld, in the Democratic primary. Days before the election, a truly vile and viciously homophobic mailer was sent out to residents of the district attacking Herndon and his campaign. The mailer attacking Herndon came after Metro Councilman Jim King had pressured Herndon to drop out of the race.

After Unseld very narrowly won the primary (by only 112 votes), Herndon filed a lawsuit in an attempt to uncover the source of this flyer. He found evidence linking Unseld and King's offices to the flyer (allegedly at the behest of Mayor Abramson's office), but no smoking gun.

Councilman Unseld died this June in his offices, suffering extensive bleeding following a fall. Hundreds came to his funeral.

Twenty applicants applied to fill the open seat, of whom several dropped out. The Metro Council interviewed the remaining 11, including Herndon, U of L Pan-African Studies professor Deonte Hollowell, and attorney Neena Parks Thompson. A long series of deadlocked votes ensued. Finally, independent Deonte Hollowell was chosen as a compromise; he's reportedly the first Independent to serve on the Metro Council.

Dr. Hollowell came to our neighborhood association meeting after announcing that he was running as an Independent in the November election to fill the remainder of Unseld's term (the first such meeting we've attended, btw). He says that he is very committed to running as an Independent rather than seeking the backing of a party, since he feels (IIRC) that such partisan disputes are not relevant to the welfare of the district. It is a noteworthy sentiment, but I suspect it's somewhat naive: the district's voters are registered 71% Democratic, 17% Republican, and 11% independent or other.

Hollowell was likely chosen as a seat-warmer until a Democratic candidate could fill the seat in November. I suspect he was not taken very seriously at the time. But since taking the seat, he's been working with Unseld's staff and has been doing a very competent job, to my understanding.

For the November election, the Democrats selected former FOP president David James, despite potential residency problems. James was nominated after a weighted vote by a nine-member panel. At the last minute, the GOP selected Candace Jaworski for the race.

In August, Ken Herndon launched a write-in campaign, making it a four-way race. Normally, a write-in campaign is not a serious effort. But Herndon is well-known in the district with a large bloc of support, the nomination process was badly tainted by party shenanigans, and the electorate is already very split since the incumbent is an Independent. There are a ~lot~ of Ken Herndon signs (left over from the primary) with a "Write In" sticker on them in Old Louisville.

So at present, there are four candidates: Republican Candace Jaworski, Democrat David James, incumbent Independent Deonte Hollowell, and write-in candidate Ken Herndon. Anything could happen.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed to remove Hollowell from the ballot, alleging that he didn't have enough petition signatures to be eligible to run as an independent. Ed Springston points to former Democratic Party chair Jennifer Moore among others (you can guess who).

At this point I think it's responsible only to vote for Deonte Hollowell or write in Ken Herndon. And it's certainly plausible that someone could win the seat outside the two major parties. The parties have made a real mess of this. But at least the results will be "interesting".

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