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In District 16, Council Democrats Seek To Build On Majority

louisville city hall

Residents of Louisville’s Metro Council District 16 will have the chance to elect a new council member on Tuesday.

Two candidates are vying to replace longtime incumbent Kelly Downard, who announced last year he wouldn’t seek reelection to the post. Downard, a Republican, has been the District 16 representative since the city and county governments merged 13 years ago.

Downard pulled in more than 60 percent of the vote in each of his races, election records show. He's served a term as president of a council that has always been dominated by Democrats, and he’s led various committees.

Seeking to replace Downard are developer Gill Holland and businessman Scott Reed.

(Disclosure: Holland is a member of Louisville Public Media's board of directors.)

Holland is a Democrat and has raised nearly $100,000 in his bid, according to state records. Reed, a Republican, has brought in just more than $10,000.

The district stretches from Blankenbaker Parkway to the eastern edge of Jefferson County and south to Highway 22. It also includes 14 small suburban cities, among them Prospect, Barbourmeade and Glenview.

There’s been scant polling in the race, and history doesn’t paint a clear picture of who is likely to win. Though Republican Downard has dominated in past elections, areas within the district have also favored reelection bids of prominent Democrats including Mayor Greg Fischer and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth.

Reed ran unsuccessfully for state House in 2012 and in the past has held leadership positions within the Louisville Tea Party. When asked why he’s running for Metro Council now, he said in an interview it’s just time.

"This is a good time in my life when I can give back," he said. "I’m not a professional politician, I’m not going to do this for more than three terms, this is my way of giving back."

For Holland, it’s about bringing some positivity to what he calls a "toxic" election year.

"I was like, let’s have a positive campaign, no negativity, just talk about the issues, let’s kind of have fun with it and see if we can win," he said.

Reed identifies as a fiscal conservative.

"Every decision I make is what is best for the taxpayer and what is best for the taxpayer in the 16th District," he said. "I’m not one to raise taxes and fees."

Holland touts his nonpartisan ideology.

"I really don’t think city-level politics should be partisan," he said. "We drive the same roads, we breathe the same air, and they both need fixing so we've got to work together."

On the Issues

Reed said he is focused on job growth through tax incentives. This, he said, can attract more high-paying manufacturing and white-collar jobs. He currently works as an executive in his family's decades-old printing company.

He said one way to attract those jobs is to lower the city's occupational tax, which is 2.2 percent for employees who live within the Metro boundaries and 1.45 percent for those who work in Louisville but live outside the city.

"I’ve always believed the city of Louisville has an occupational tax that is way too high," he said.

He said he’s also concerned about the city’s struggle with opioid addiction.

"It’s a health issue, it’s not criminal," he said.

Holland said one of his top concerns is the proposed veterans hospital on Brownsboro Road. It has drawn public attention amid concerns its location could affect quality of life in nearby neighborhoods.

Holland said building the hospital at the site currently proposed "will have a catastrophic impact on traffic issues in District 16."

And he hasn’t lost hope for a streetcar in downtown Louisville.

"We could pay for that through the private sector with a little leadership from the government," he said.

Both candidates would like to see more government transparency and less crime, and they've both expecting a tight race.

In addition to the District 16 race, District 14 incumbent Cindi Fowler is trying to stave off a challenge from Republican newcomer Shane Ranschaert. The other seats up for election this cycle are one-candidate races.

If Fowler holds her seat and Holland wins, the majority caucus would have the power to overrule any vetoes from Fischer.

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