Democrats sweep Louisville Metro Council special elections
There were no surprises in Louisville’s local legislative elections Tuesday night, as Metro Council Democrats won districts the party has held since the 2003 merger created the body.
Three special elections were on the ballot after council members resigned their positions earlier this year to take other jobs in state and local government. The winners will serve the remainder of those terms. With these results, Democrats will maintain a majority on the 26-seat council, representing 17 districts.
In District 8, which covers the Highlands, Metro Council Member Ben Reno-Weber fought off a challenge from Republican Phil Haming. Reno-Weber was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Cassie Chambers Armstrong, now a state Senator, in May. He watched results come in alongside family and friends gathered at an event space near Paristown Hall.
Reno-Weber said he was grateful for the opportunity to campaign and connect directly with so many residents of his district. He said their priorities were clear.
“We heard the same things over and over again,” he said. “It’s public safety. It’s homelessness and housing. It’s infrastructure. And it’s making government work.”
Moving forward, Reno-Weber, who’s the deputy director of the Health Equity Hub at the University of Louisville, said he’d like to use his expertise to help the city expand its 911 deflection program, which provides a non-police response to some emergency calls for mental health crises. He also wants the city to address the complexities of affordable housing and homelessness in Louisville.
The number of people experiencing homelessness throughout the city increased 139% from early 2022 to early 2023.
This is the first of three campaigns Reno-Weber will have to mount in the coming months. He’ll have to run in a Democratic primary and a general election next year. The winner of the general election will get a full four-year term.
The same is true for Democrat Phillip Baker, who won the Metro Council District 6. Baker defeated Republican Judy Martin Stallard to represent the district, which includes Old Louisville, Shelby Park and parts of the Algonquin and Park Hill neighborhoods. Like Reno-Weber, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the district after David James, who served five years as council president, took a job in Mayor Craig Greenberg’s administration.
Baker is a family resource coordinator for Jefferson County Public Schools, and he vowed during his campaign to focus on expanding opportunities for young people in Louisville and repairing the relationship between police and the community.
He said his plan now that he is in the seat through next year is to continue the work he’s already done.
“And that's to continue to serve, continue to be about seniors, doing what I can to make people feel safe and they have a thriving community where we all belong,” he said.
Baker said he was looking forward to returning to the campaign trail next spring spring and doesn’t see it as a burden.
“It’s always going to be a day-to-day struggle for anyone who’s a parent of three boys, but the people of District 6 have a good process,” he said. “They can gauge my success each step of the way.”
In District 3, which contains the city of Shively and the Taylor Berry neighborhood, voters chose progressive Democrat Shameka Parrish-Wright to be their next representative. She’ll finish out the three years remaining in Keisha Dorsey’s term.
Parrish-Wright was a prominent figure in the 2020 racial justice protests in Louisville and is a familiar face in the city's nonprofit scene. She sits on the board of a number of organizations, including La Casita Center, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. She’s also the executive director of VOCAL-KY, an advocacy group focused on ending the war on drugs, mass incarceration and homelessness.
Parrish-Wright ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for mayor, coming in second with nearly 19,000 votes. She’s experienced single motherhood and homelessness firsthand, and she’s used those experiences on the campaign trail to try and connect with residents who don’t traditionally vote in local elections.
During a recent candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, Parrish-Wright said she wants to work on shaping important policies around gun violence, policing and access to affordable housing, while also ensuring neighborhoods are clean and potholes get filled.
“The safest communities are the ones who have the most resources,” Parrish-Wright said at the forum.
Each of the Democrats on the ballot won their districts by large margins. Next year, all 13 Metro Council members representing even-numbered districts will be on the ballot.