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Council Members Defend, React to Parker’s Surprise Victory

Louisville Metro Council members are having mixed reactions to Tea Party candidate Marilyn Parker defeating Republican incumbent Jon Ackerson in the District 18 primary race.Earlier this year, a majority of GOP council members backed Parker over Ackerson after claiming the one-term city lawmaker too often sided with Democrats in key debates. On the council, Ackerson was considered a bipartisan member willing to work with both parties and was favored to win the contests.But Parker worked the neighborhoods diligently and was able to oust Ackerson from office by a razor-thin margin of 37 votes in the east Louisville district.Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, says she doesn’t want to dismiss Parker and wants to welcome more women to the council, but that Parker's controversial remarks over the years and Tea Party affiliation raise questions."Her cohorts around this town and around the country haven't in my opinion shown their willingness to work across the aisle and not work in absolutism, in my way or no way," she says. "So unfortunately she probably has that baggage coming in with her."Political observers have documented Parker's remarks over the years, since her short lived run for Kentucky's Third Congressional seat two years ago. In past Facebook postings, Parker has suggested President Obama secretly practices Islam and made others questioning whether he is a U.S. citizen. In a telephone interview with WFPL last week, Parker backpedaled on her affiliation with the birther movement when asked if Mr. Obama is a citizen. She said the president is a U.S. resident, but added that Mr. Obama's birth certificate is still an issue "every voter should look at" this year."Judging from right now I think that, you know I'm not going to answer that because it doesn't have anything to do with this Metro Council race. It'll just be sensationalized in the media and so I'm not going to answer," she said.Besides endorsing Parker over Ackerson, council members Kelly Downard, R-16, Robin Engel, R-22, and Kevin Kramer, R-11, also donated to her campaign, according to state campaign finance records.Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, was a stinging critic of Ackerson's who came out early in support for Parker. He says Parker will stay focused on council issues such as backing ethics reform and transparency laws, adding critics bringing up the birther issue are trying to distract voters."People can keep bringing up the birth issue and all those sorts of things, but that’s a federal matter. She ran for a race at that time and she made those comments at that time," he says. "But you know what? She ran for the Metro Council race, she understands what the objectives are and you know we’re not going to worry about those comments in the past because that was another race."When asked if he believes the president is a U.S. citizen, Fleming said he had no documentation to make a comment.Parker is favored to win the race against Democrat Teague Ridge this fall in the heavily Republican 18th district. If Parker wins in November, she will be the only female Republican on the council."I don’t want to dismiss her because of what the larger Tea Party movement might have going for them because she could be the very one that’s different," says Ward-Pugh. "I’m hoping I’m going to be surprised by that, but I’ll have to say though that I'm just a little bit shocked that anybody on the Metro Council would even be having a conversation about President Obama’s birth certificate."