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Louisville mayoral candidates ramp up spending as Election Day approaches

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With absentee voting underway and early voting starting Thursday, candidates for mayor of Louisville Metro are ramping up spending on advertising and other promotional material. 

This latest campaign finance reporting period is the last look the public will get at who is backing Louisville’s mayoral hopefuls and how they’re spending money ahead of the Nov. 8 general election. Candidates won’t have to file another report with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance until mid-December.

Democrat Craig Greenberg, an attorney and former CEO of 21c Museum Hotels, spent more than $800,000 since mid-September, according to campaign filings with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Nearly half of that was in the most recent reporting period, which ran from Oct. 12 through Oct. 26. 

His campaign staff’s payroll made up a large chunk of the expenditures, but Greenberg also spent roughly $250,000 on advertising buys through GMMB, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based political communications firm for Democrats. The campaign also paid $24,700 to the national polling firm Impact Research for “research costs,” according to filings. 

Republican candidate Bill Dieruf, who’s the outgoing mayor of Jeffersontown, continues to trail Greenberg in spending. Since mid-September, Dieruf’s campaign spent $264,000 on the race. He had $191,000 in expenditures during the most recent reporting period, including a $27,000 radio ad buy through iHeartMedia. Dieruf also spent $150,000 on ad buys through Grit Creative, a Frankfort-based firm that’s done commercial work for state-level Republican candidates like Rep. Jason Nemes, Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Treasurer Allison Ball. 

Fundraising has slowed significantly for both Dieruf and Greenberg in the past couple of weeks. 

Dieruf’s campaign reported just $53,000 in donations since Oct. 12. He raised roughly $47,000 through individual contributions under $2,000 apiece, including donations from Republican Metro Council Member Kevin Kramer of District 11 and Stephen Fenley of Fenley Real Estate, Louisville’s largest investor in corporate office space. 

Greenberg, meanwhile, received just $33,000 in donations in the same period. His campaign reported 51 individual contributions, including a $2,000 donation from Richard Baron, co-founder of the development group McCormack Baron Salazar, which recently redeveloped the Beecher Terrace public housing complex in the Russell neighborhood, and a $250 donation from William Summers, a vice president at Republic Bank.

Greenberg also received $2,000 from a political action committee created by the multinational food processing company JBS Foods and $1,000 from a PAC representing billboard advertising firm Outfront Media. JBS’s slaughterhouse in Louisville has been fined multiple times for odor violations and faced numerous complaints from its workers for not doing enough to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facility.

The unauthorized campaign committee Forward Together spent $77,000 on digital and streaming ads in support of Greenberg between Oct. 25 and 31, according to filing with the state. Forward Together is run by Steve and Pat Miller of Saber21, a local communications firm, with the sole purpose of supporting Greenberg’s mayoral bid. Unauthorized campaign committees can spend money in support of candidates and receive large donations, as long as they don’t coordinate directly with a candidate.

Just one of the seven independent candidates running for mayor has raised and spent money ahead of the General Election. Martina Nichols Kunnecke, a west Louisville activist, reported raising $2,400 since mid-September. She spent $700 during the most recent reporting period, mainly on supplies and campaign materials. 

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