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Louisville Metro Council candidates spend thousands as primary approaches

High-level view of downtown Louisville looking northeast
Gabrielle Jones
All 13 of Metro Council's even-numbered seats are up for election this year.

With a number of hotly contested primary races for Metro Council, political candidates in Louisville are shelling out thousands on campaign videos, yard signs and mailers.

New campaign finance reports, which detail donations and expenditures, suggest some primary races for Louisville Metro Council may be close. The filings also show many incumbents are facing serious challengers. In total, Metro Council candidates have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Candidates who received or spent money ahead of the May 21 primary were required to file financial disclosures with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance by last week. These filings offer a glimpse inside their campaigns.

Here are some key takeaways from the recent filings:

Two candidates pulling ahead of large pack in District 4

The Democratic primary in District 4 has the largest field of candidates. Eleven people filed to run for the seat after Independent Council Member Jecorey Arthur announced he would not seek a second term.

District 4 covers the Central Business District downtown, as well NuLu to the east and part of the Russell neighborhood to the west.

Two Democratic candidates have set themselves apart, in terms of fundraising: Stan Moore and Ken Herndon. That may not surprise anyone who’s been downtown in recent weeks, as campaign signs for the two candidates have blanketed the area.

Moore raised $60,000 during the most recent campaign finance period, from December through last week. That includes a $20,000 personal loan Moore made to his own campaign.

He’s a first-time political candidate and businessman. He’s currently the board president of the Jeffersonville Community Kitchen and chair of the Louisville Downtown Management District.

Some of Moore’s biggest donations came from developers, including Poe Companies’ Steve Poe and LDG Development co-owner Mark Lechner. Moore has spent big on advertising, including $17,000 on billboard buys.

In the same period, Herndon raised about $30,000, according to his financial disclosures. He’s relied more heavily on people donating less than $100 apiece, while also picking up large contributions from prominent Louisvillians. Activist and publisher Eleanor Bingham Miller donated the maximum allowed for an individual — $2,100 — to Herndon’s campaign. Jack Dulworth, an investor and former chair of the Louisville Metro Planning Commission, contributed the same amount.

Herndon spent nearly $14,000 in total, with his largest expenses being campaign staff payroll.

The other candidates are:

  • Demetrius McDowell Sr.
  • Joshua Alexander Crowder
  • Joseph “Jody” Dahmer
  • Bridgett Smith
  • Carol Clark
  • Dino Johnson
  • Dennisha Rivers
  • Mary K. Hall
  • Bobbie James

Alexander Crowder, a labor organizer endorsed by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter, has $6,095.83 raised entirely from donations under $100. He’s spent about half of his campaign funds so far.
McDowell Sr., an anti-violence activist, took in about $4,400, half of which was a personal loan from himself. And Dahmer has raised a little under $1,000.

Republican incumbents facing serious challengers

In District 18, Republican Council Member Marilyn Parker is facing a primary challenge from Bonnie Jung, the mayor of the independent city Douglass Hills.

Jung’s campaign currently has about $16,000, including a $2,000 in personal loans from herself. Jung, who was previously president of the Jefferson County League of Cities, has spent about $8,500 so far, with the biggest expense being yard signs. Some of her most notable donors include Hurstbourne Mayor Mary Masick and developer Jeff Underhill.

Parker is a retired nurse and owner of the Club K-9 dog park and bar. She’s looking for a fourth term on Louisville Metro Council after first winning her seat in 2012.

Parker has raised more than Jung, but not by much. Her campaign received about $19,000 during the most recent filing period, with a $10,000 personal loan from herself. She received campaign contributions from former gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner and Bruce Gordon, head of Frank Otte Landscape & Design Group, and she’s spent roughly $3,000 on her re-election bid so far.

In far southeastern Jefferson County, District 20’s Stuart Benson is also facing a serious challenge from within his own party. Two-term Jeffersontown City Council Member Brian Abrams is looking to unseat Benson, who’s been on Metro Council since the 2003 city-county merger.

Abrams has run an entirely self-funded campaign so far. Late last year, he loaned himself $40,000 for the primary. He’s already spent about half of that, with his largest expenses being consulting and advertising.

Benson has also chosen to self-fund his primary campaign. He loaned himself $8,000 in January and he’s spent about $3,500 so far on a website and campaign magnets.

Council newcomers’ opponents drawing support

Phillip Baker and Ben Reno-Weber have been representing District 6 and 8 for a little over a year. The two Democrats were appointed to their respective seats last year to fill vacancies.

Both beat out Republican challengers in a special election last year. Now they’re facing serious challenges from within their own party.

In District 6, candidates J.P. Lyninger and Kate Dittmeier Holm are looking to unseat Baker before he can serve a full term. District 6 covers Old Louisville, Shelby Park and parts of the Algonquin and Park Hill neighborhoods.

Lyninger is a longtime activist and organizer endorsed by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter. Since December, he’s raised $14,000, almost entirely in donations of $100 or less. Lyninger tallied 262 donations, more than any other candidate for Metro Council.

Combined with $6,000 in personal loans from himself, Lyninger’s campaign has taken in about $20,000. He’s spent $8,500 so far, with his biggest expense being yard signs.

Holm, an attorney and Emerge Kentucky graduate, is also vying for the Democratic nomination. She’s so far raised $17,000, including a $5,000 loan from herself. Like Lyninger, almost all of her campaign donations have been under $500. Many donations have come from other attorneys.

Baker has not reported any donations or expenses to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance so far.

In the Highlands, Taylor McGovern-U’Sellis is challenging Reno-Weber. McGovern-U’Sellis is running a progressive campaign focused on supporting equity, affordability and sustainability in one of Louisville's most popular neighborhoods.

She reported that she received $22,000 in campaign donations in recent months. All of her contributions came from people donating $500 or less. Some of her notable donors included activist Carla Wallace and politico Marty Meyer, who ran against Reno-Weber for the Democratic nomination in the special election last year.

Reno-Weber, a self-described social entrepreneur and head of the Health Equity Innovation Hub at the University of Louisville, seeded his re-election campaign with $51,000 he carried over from the previous election. He’s also received about $53,000 in donations since December.

Some of his biggest donations have come from Stephen Lannert, an industrial real estate broker, and rapper Jack Harlow. Reno-Weber and Harlow are cousins. He also got money from numerous unions and interest groups, including the Louisville Professional Firefighters Local 345 and the Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville.

Candidates are required to file further campaign finance disclosure fifteen days before primary, and before and after the General Election on Nov. 5.

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

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