Gray and Beatty to face off for mayor's seat in November general election

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comMay 20, 2014 

  • Lexington Mayor

    Candidiate Votes Pct.

    Jim Gray 25,439 56.6

    Anthony Beatty Sr. 17,033 37.9

    Danny Mayer 2,459 5.5

    100% reporting

Mayor Jim Gray will face former Lexington police chief Anthany Beatty in the November general election.

Gray and Beatty easily moved through the primary and will meet again in the Nov. 4 general election. Bluegrass Community and Technical College professor Danny Mayer came in a distant third.

Gray finished first, nabbing 56.6 percent of the 44,931 votes cast Tuesday, according to Don Blevins Jr., the Fayette County clerk. Beatty received 37.9 percent and Mayer 5.5 percent, Blevins said.

Tuesday's results were no surprise, but they are historic. Gray became the city's first openly gay mayor when he won in 2010. Beatty, the city's first black police chief, is the first black candidate to run for the city's top office in a November general election since Harry Sykes ran in 1971.

Gray, at a victory party at Winchell's on Southland Drive, thanked supporters and focused on his past nearly 31/2 years in office. Gray said voters apparently approve of his job performance.

"It is reassuring to have the support and confidence that this vote represents," Gray said. "I've said this is all about getting things done. And I do think that the voters of Lexington recognize that good work is being accomplished."

Gray praised Beatty for his "admirable finish" and first-time candidate Mayer.

"Danny brought spirit, enthusiasm and imagination to the race," Gray said. "I'll listen to his ideas and make them part of our conversation going forward."

Gray said Beatty and his wife, Eunice, have "done a lot of good for this community" and that he looked forward to a general election campaign that focused on how to make Lexington better.

Beatty, from his campaign headquarters less than a mile away on Nicholasville Road, said he could not win in November without voter support.

"This is out my control," he said. "I need your support to make this happen. Continue working for us, and come November we will turn this around. I will be mayor of Lexington, Kentucky."

During the weeks leading up to Tuesday's primary, Gray was the clear leader in both name recognition and campaign cash. Gray raised $394,323 total and had $100,909 cash on hand, according to his May campaign finance report. The incumbent lent the campaign $10,000.

Beatty, an administrator at the University of Kentucky, raised more than $141,687, of which $60,000 was a loan to his own campaign, according to reports with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Mayer raised less than $2,000 and focused on door-to-door campaigning and his online presence.

Gray is well known. The former CEO of Gray Construction previously was vice mayor before besting then-Mayor Jim Newberry in 2010. He had run for public office several times before being elected vice mayor in 2006.

The primary campaign focused mainly on Gray's first term. In campaign advertisements, Beatty assailed Gray for wanting to spend too much money on downtown projects, including a proposed $351 million revamp of Rupp Arena and the attached convention center. Beatty also pledged to put public safety first and spend more money on basic infrastructure, including parks.

In campaign ads and in speeches, Gray focused on his ability to solve thorny financial problems, including overhauling the city's police and fire pension fund and its employee health insurance program. The tweaks to the city's health insurance program saved the city more than $24 million over the past two years, according to a recent report.

But Mayer and Beatty have been critical of Gray's proposal to spend $40 million in city bond money on the $351 million Rupp Arena renovation. The project includes expanding the storied home of the University of Kentucky men's basketball program, and moving and expanding the convention center.

Beatty said he doesn't oppose renovating Rupp Arena but questioned the proposed financial plan. He also has said that more people should be brought into the planning phases of the project.

Gray has vigorously defended the project, referring to it as a "game changer" that could create thousands of jobs and could reinvent Lexington's top attraction and its brand. The redesign of Rupp is a catalyst for a re-energized downtown, he has said.

On Tuesday night, Gray focused on job creation.

"One hundred and fifty thousand people are employed in Lexington, more than any other time in our history," he said. Since 2011, when Gray took office, he said, 9,000 jobs have been added.

Heading into the November general election, Rupp probably will continue to dominate. City and state funding for the project has not yet been secured.

Public safety also is likely to be a hot topic in the general election. Beatty, who spent more than three decades in the police department before retiring in 2007, has said that police and fire services need to be beefed up.

Gray has maintained that crime rates have dropped. He has worked with the Urban County Council to replace aging police vehicles and fire equipment, and find more money to hire additional police officers.

The November mayoral general election will probably be an expensive one, based on the race four years ago.

In total, Gray raised $1.8 million in 2010. Newberry raised $1.2 million.

Gray has given generously to his own campaigns in the past. During the 2010 election, Gray lent his campaign more than $900,000, campaign finance records show.

On Tuesday night, Gray said he would not rule out giving more money to his campaign.

Beatty said he knew that the campaign would be costly and he would probably be outspent, "but we're not going to be outworked," Beatty said.

Mayer said late Tuesday he looked forward to spending more time with his wife and daughter and focusing on teaching English. "But I'll never say never," Mayer said of running for office again.

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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