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Crickets: Metro Council Members Largely Silent On Presidential Election

Clinton Trump debate

Don't look to the Louisville Metro Council if you're wanting to discuss the presidential race.

The legislative body's 26 members are generally keeping quiet about who they'd like to see elected the next president of the United States.

Earlier this month, WFPL News sent a multi-question survey to each council member hoping to get an idea of who the city's elected leaders are supporting and what a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency would, in their eyes, mean for Louisville.

Only three council members responded to the inquiry.

Democrats Bill Hollander and Mary Woolridge both responded with broad support for Clinton.

"Clinton is an extraordinarily well-prepared candidate," said Hollander, chair of the council's majority Democratic caucus.

The only other council member to respond to the survey, Democrat Jessica Green, offered a "no comment" through her legislative aide.

Not a single Republican responded to the survey.

The 23 council members' silence makes it unclear whether they plan to support their parties' nominees in what's turned out to be a tumultuous election year.

This comes as little surprise to Dewey Clayton, chair of the University of Louisville's political science department.

"A lot of people are having to sort of be very careful in how they play their cards," he said. "They're keeping their cards very close to their chest."

The "unique election" unfolding this year is leading many public officials across the political spectrum to practice extreme caution when discussing endorsements and opinions, Clayton said.

Clinton is struggling to gain support among younger voters, which proved a pivotal demographic for President Obama's pair of election wins.

Her campaign is also shrouded in controversy stemming from allegations of misuse of a private email server and the recent release by WikiLeaks of thousands of emails ostensibly linked to Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.

On the Republican side, Trump is running a campaign in many ways defined by outrage. He's made vulgar comments about women, mocked journalists and claimed the election is "rigged."

Clayton said these facts make it tricky for a local politician to openly endorse either. Throwing support behind the wrong candidate, he said, could limit a politician's ability to gain higher office in the future.

"If they go out and support one particular candidate, that may not jive well with their constituents," he said. "Politicians are always looking with an eye towards their next possible election."

Clayton added that local council members don't have much responsibility to disclose who they're endorsing for president.

Council members may also be cautious to avoid violating the city's ethics ordinance.

Steve Haag, a spokesman for the council's Republican caucus, said the question of who a council member plans to support for president is "political in nature and not about the members' governmental responsibilities."

Council policy prohibits members from engaging in "political activity" while on "government time." This includes action related to "the advancement of a candidate for public office," and it encompasses emails, phones and facilities provided by the council.

As such, WFPL News made arrangements with council officials in both political parties to share the survey with members via their personal email addresses, not the ones supplied by Metro Council.

Still, few chose to share their candidate preferences with the public.

The ethics policy came into play in recent weeks, after the council's Democratic caucus hosted a Clinton campaign official in City Hall. The head of the Jefferson County Republican Party claims the visit violated the ethics policy and has since filed nearly a dozen ethics complaints, according to a report from The Courier-Journal.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.