Jim Gray credits Isaac, Mossotti with helping him win mayor's race

Isaac, Mossotti helped campaign; ideas resonated

amead@herald-leader.comNovember 4, 2010 

A campaign plan hatched after Jim Gray finished second in the May primary helped push him over the top in the Lexington mayor's race Tuesday.

The campaign also received considerable help from two women — former Mayor Teresa Isaac and former Urban County Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti — who were well-known in the parts of town where Gray wasn't, he said Wednesday.

"We really felt like the message of running the business of government like a business (and) avoiding wasteful spending were messages that crossed boundaries," said Gray, who is the city's vice mayor.

Those themes, accompanied with plenty of criticism of incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry, moved Gray from eight points behind in the three-way primary to an almost seven-point victory in the two-candidate general election.

Newberry, meanwhile, blamed his defeat on negative campaign ads and a relative lack of money to hit back.

In his monthly appearance on WVLK-AM 590's The Lexington Morning News With Jack Pattie, Newberry also said the 37-percent rate hike that Kentucky American Water put into place 34 days before the election hurt him badly.

"If I had to pick one thing that led to the result yesterday, that was it," Newberry said.

In the primary election, Gray carried voting precincts around the University of Kentucky and in Chevy Chase, Ashland Park and Kenwick. Newberry's strength was outside New Circle Road, primarily in south Lexington.

Isaac, the former mayor who was eliminated in the primary, received the most votes in precincts north of downtown — both inside and outside New Circle Road — that have large numbers of African-American voters.

She endorsed Gray three weeks before the general election, then campaigned for him, walking neighborhoods at his side, and sending frequent messages to her thousands of Facebook friends.

Asked Wednesday whether Isaac would have a role in his administration, Gray said: "We haven't discussed it; she is committed to public service, and I respect that."

Mossotti, a real-estate agent who for three terms represented the 9th council district, was Gray's political director.

"Jennifer ... had deep roots in her district and in south Lexington," Gray said.

A Herald-Leader analysis of Tuesday's voting pattern showed that Gray was strongest — pulling in 60 percent of the vote — in the areas where he had done well in the spring and in many areas where Isaac did well. He also won many southern precincts that had been in Newberry's column in May.

Gray also credited his Fresh Start Plan, a 36-page booklet that outlined his ideas for "putting Lexington back in business."

He frequently held the booklet up at forums and handed out copies when campaigning, ignoring Newberry's claims that many of the ideas already were in place.

At last report, two weeks before the election, the candidates' fund-raising was not that far apart. Gray had raised $1.2 million, including $480,000 that he lent to his campaign. Newberry had raised just over $1 million.

Gray said Wednesday he had put more money into his campaign since then, but declined to say how much. The amount will have to be declared to the state in a report due Dec. 7.

Gray said he has not decided whether to try to raise more money from contributors to pay himself back the loans. In previous races, he has written off loans.

The mayor-elect said he spent part of Wednesday calling supporters to thank them, and "reaching out" to Newberry supporters.

He has promised to hire a chief administrative officer to handle the day-to-day business of running the city. That job is "in the front of my mind," but he said he had not decided whether to look for someone locally or conduct a nationwide search.

He also has talked about "elevating the role of planning" to integrate it with preservation and economic development, but didn't give a timetable for doing that.

"I'm not going to jump quickly on making commissioner-level decisions," he said. "We've got plenty of talented people doing the day-to-day work at the director level and others, more than 3,000 employees of the city. Plenty of competence."

Gray and the Urban County Council will be inaugurated in early January.

Computer-assisted reporting coordinator Linda J. Johnson contributed to this article. Reach Andy Mead at (859) 231-3319 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3319.

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