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Dueling endorsements: Abortion rights group backs Democrat, police unions support Republican for Louisville mayor

Louisville Mayor, Metro Hall, Louisville
Louisville Mayor, Metro Hall, Louisville

Louisville’s Republican and Democratic candidates for mayor announced dueling endorsements Thursday.

Democrat Craig Greenberg received the backing of the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, while Republican Bill Dieruf was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police unions representing Louisville Metro Police Department officers and Metro Corrections officers, among others. More endorsement announcements are expected as it gets closer to Election Day on Nov. 8.

Greenberg, the former CEO of 21c Museum Hotels, has been a vocal advocate for abortion access and the campaign to "vote no" on a ballot amendment that would strip abortion protections from the state constitution. In an interview, Greenberg said the right to an abortion is “very much a local issue.”

“Now more than ever, the fight for reproductive freedom is not just in Washington, D.C., it’s not in state capitals like Frankfort, it’s also right here in Louisville,” he said. “I have pledged that, if elected, I will not use our local police to be the enforcement arm of Kentucky’s extreme abortion ban.”

Greenberg also criticized Dieruf for refusing to say whether he’d allow local police to arrest doctors who help people seeking an abortion, and for taking money from what he called “anti-abortion extremists who work to criminalize all abortions.”

In response, Dieruf said Greenberg was spreading “untruths” about him. But pushed by reporters to answer whether he’d enforce the state’s abortion ban in Louisville, Dieruf refused to answer.

“I won’t answer that question today,” he said.

Dieruf said he would publicly announce his stance on abortion “in the future.”

Greenberg pointed to a donation Dieruf received during the Republican primary from Corey Koellner, executive director of Right to Life Louisville. The advocacy group Koellner heads has supported Kentucky’s near-total ban on abortion, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. That law makes it a Class D felony for anyone to provide procedural or medication abortions, except in cases where it is medically necessary to save the life of the pregnant patient.

Right to Life Louisville has also called the medical procedure the “greatest human rights violation our world has ever experienced.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Greenberg and elected Democrats in Louisville such as Mayor Greg Fischer and District 8 Metro Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong said they’d support de-prioritizing investigations into doctors who assist pregnant patients seeking abortion.

At that time, Dieruf side-stepped the issue of enforcement and said he would “leave the decision-making on this issue in the hands of the state and federal elected officials who have the ability in their roles to affect legislation related to abortion.”

Police unions back Dieruf

Dieruf was joined on stage by various Jefferson County law enforcement officials as he accepted their endorsement at the River City Fraternal Order of Police lodge near Okolona Thursday afternoon. 

Ryan Straw, the vice president of the statewide FOP, read a prepared statement from the six law enforcement unions that are part of the Jefferson County FOP Presidents Council.

“Violent crime remains high and we need a mayor who recognizes public safety as the no. 1 priority of government,” Straw said. “We aren’t interested in the political leanings of the next mayor, we’re only interested in results.” 

Dieruf said it gave him great pride to accept the endorsement of law enforcement officers and said, if he’s elected, Louisville will become “the place where all policemen want to reside.”

“We want to restore the pride back to LMPD that has been lost,” he said. “We want to have a proven leader in the mayor's office and we want to have a police department to where people want to come back to work.”

In his speech, Dieruf drew a gloomy image of the Louisville Metro area where homicides are at a historic high and residents live in fear.

“A group of moms I met with said they can’t let their kids go outside and play because of stray bullets,” he said. “We have people afraid to go shopping because of the car jackings.”

Dieruf vowed to rid the county of “gangs and cartel leaders,” while also focusing on moving toward a community policing model.

In addition to the unions representing LMPD officers and Department of Corrections employees, the Presidents Council represents police in Jeffersontown, St. Matthews and Shively. Straw said the endorsement came after a lengthy evaluation process where Dieruf and Greenberg met with the presidents of each union, attended a forum for rank-and-file members and then had a final meeting together with union presidents.

In the end, Straw said the Presidents Council voted unanimously to endorse Dieruf over Greenberg. 

“Experience was key,” he said. “He was proven. His police department in J-town, frankly, loves him. That was a big push for us as we talked to them and asked ‘What is the good? What is the bad?’”

Dieruf has served in the non-partisan role of Jeffersontown mayor since 2010. Prior to that, he spent a decade on Jeffersontown City Council. 

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the years Bill Dieruf was Jeffersontown mayor.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.