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Democrat Craig Greenberg wins Louisville mayor's race

071122_MAYORAL CANDIDATE_Craig Greenberg_by J. Tyler Franklin_5
Democratic candidate for Louisville mayor Craig Greenberg poses for a photo in downtown Louisville.

Businessman and Democrat Craig Greenberg will take the reins of Louisville Metro Government in January after beating Republican candidate Bill Dieruf in the race for mayor.

Greenberg had nearly 52% of the vote, according to preliminary results from the Jefferson County Clerk's Office. The State Board of Elections will certify results later this month. Dieruf told supporters he had called Greenberg to concede the election.

Greenberg will replace outgoing Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, who was constitutionally term-limited after serving for the past 12 years.

“We will move Louisville forward in a new direction,” he said to supporters Tuesday night.

This was the first time Greenberg, 48, ran for public office. The former CEO of 21c Museum Hotels fended off attacks on his inexperience during his campaign, putting forward numerous policy proposals around affordable housing, public safety and illegal firearms. He also locked in high-profile endorsements from longtime Democratic policymakers, including state Senator Gerald Neal, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Gov. Andy Beshear. 

Around 10 p.m., Greenberg took the stage at a watch party at the Galt House Hotel to claim victory. Speaking to a crowd full of supporters, he said he was ready to make Louisville cleaner, expand educational opportunities and move the city in a new direction.

“These may sound like lofty goals to some, but, to me, this is our only option, our only direction,” he said. “I know we can do all of this together, because we won this election together.”

Greenberg also thanked his supporters, his family and his campaign staff.

Gov. Andy Beshear was on hand at the party to congratulate Greenberg on his win and introduce him to the audience as the new mayor-elect. Beshear said he loves Louisville and he was excited to see Greenberg elected to lead it.

“I know Craig ran as a proud Democrat, but I know that tomorrow he starts his journey as a mayor for every single citizen of this county, he’s going to earn the faith of every citizen in this county and he’s going to do us proud,” Beshear said.

Just blocks away at his watch party, Dieruf told supporters he had called Greenberg and conceded the race.

"It's counted in votes, it's not counted in experience, and so we have to call it tonight and I called him and said you will be the next mayor of Louisville,” Dieruf said. “But I'm not going away, I'll be here for another race some other time."

Both Dieruf and Greenberg made public safety a cornerstone of their campaigns. In January, Greenberg released what he called his “all in” plan for a “safer, stronger and healthier Louisville.” 

In response to the record-breaking gun violence in the city since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Greenberg’s plan included filling hundreds of vacancies within the Louisville Metro Police Department and directing officers to crack down on illegal drugs. He also vowed to reorient the department toward a “community policing” model and improve transparency and accountability.

“I want to really support the police department to recruit a diverse group of individuals who are trained in community policing, that are working with people in every neighborhood, that know the neighborhood leaders, that know leaders of the clergy, that know those who have been formerly incarcerated,” Greenberg told WFPL News in April

But Greenberg said he also recognized that Louisville could not “police our way to safety alone.”

Much of his public safety plan focused on what he said are the root causes of crime, including access to social services, job training and decent housing. While on the campaign trail he repeatedly vowed to create 15,000 affordable housing units through incentives and repurposing or developing vacant lots the city owns.

Throughout his campaign, Greenberg also tried to speak directly to issues affecting Black communities in Jefferson County. Just weeks before Election Day, he held a press conference to announce an endorsement by Pastor Timothy Findley, Jr., a former primary opponent. 

Speaking to reporters outside the Newburg Community Center, Greenberg said he increased investment in neighborhoods that the city had historically neglected, including those in the West End. He discussed his plans for universal pre-kindergarten access and expanding programming at community centers.

Greenberg's path to the mayor's office wasn't without challenges.

In February, a gunman walked into his Butchertown campaign office while Greenberg met with a handful of staffers. Activist and writer Quintez Brown allegedly fired several shots at Greenberg, with one bullet grazing his sweater. No one was injured in the incident. Brown, who was on the ballot as an independent candidate for Metro Council District 5, is in federal custody awaiting trial.

Following the shooting, Greenberg told the television news station WDRB the incident only strengthened his resolve to run for mayor and address the root causes of violence. 

"That should be the focus for everyone running for mayor, those in office now and for those who are going to be in office,” he said. “We must ensure that everyone in Louisville feels safe and is safe."

In the May 17 Democratic primary, Greenberg faced off against seven other hopefuls, including people with deep connections in Louisville like Jefferson County Court Clerk David Nicholson and activist Shameka Parrish-Wright. He garnered 48% of the vote in that race. Dieruf got 78% of the vote in the four-person Republican primary. 

Concerns over violent crime and the handling of the 2020 racial justice protests downtown by the current Democratic administration also bolstered his opponent’s campaign. In recent months, Dieruf tried to tie Greenberg to Fischer as much as possible. He called Greenberg “Fischer 2.0” and “more of the same.”

While Louisville Metro hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1969, Dieruf’s supporters appeared enthusiastic. The nonpartisan mayor of Jeffersontown, Dieruf also played into the disconnect and neglect many residents living outside the urban core say they feel.

Greenberg is expected to take office in early January. Once mayor, he may have to moderate some of his expectations for reforming policing in Louisville.

Any changes Dieruf wants to make to the police department may also be hampered by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is currently investigating LMPD for patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing. The DOJ is expected to issue a final report in the coming weeks and Louisville Metro will likely be forced to enter a court-ordered consent decree that will lay out hundreds of reforms city officials must implement.

This story has been updated.

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