Longtime Lexington Councilman Kevin Stinnett announced Tuesday that he will run for mayor. He made the announcement just hours after Mayor Jim Gray launched a campaign for Congress and confirmed that he won’t seek a third term as mayor next year.
Stinnett, who chairs the council’s budget committee and was first elected in 2004, said his nearly 14 years of experience on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council makes him the ideal candidate for Lexington’s top elected position.
“No one has the leadership experience that I have,” said Stinnett, a financial adviser.
He said he also wants to ensure that all of Lexington has a voice at city hall.
“There are other projects, such as the renovation of the convention center, that have been started and need to be seen through to the end,” he said.
The race is nonpartisan. Stinnett, a Democrat, served for a decade in the 6th Council District, which includes the Hamburg area. He is about to begin his fourth year as an at-large council member, which is elected citywide. Stinnett said he plans to make a formal announcement in coming weeks, and he will speak more about his positions and ideas.
The race to lead Kentucky’s second-largest city could get crowded.
Others considering a run to replace Gray include Vice Mayor Steve Kay, At-Large Councilman Richard Moloney, former Vice Mayor Linda Gorton and former Lexington Police Chief Anthany Beatty.
All four confirmed Tuesday that they are mulling whether to enter the race.
Others who have been mentioned as possible mayoral candidates include Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who cannot seek a third term in her state office, and former State Auditor Adam Edelen.
Some also have speculated that Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard recently announced he would retire in early January so he could run for mayor, but Barnard said Tuesday he is not interested in the race.
Moloney is an independent. Gorton is a Republican. Kay, Edelen, Beatty and Grimes are Democrats.
“A lot of people have asked me to run,” said Gorton, who stunned many people when she announced in November 2013 that she would not seek re-election. “People have even asked my husband if I am going to run. I so appreciate that. It’s a big decision for me because I am having a lovely retirement, seeing my children and my grandchildren. It becomes a question of whether I feel I have a call to do that out of retirement.”
Kay, who has been on the council for seven years, serving the last three as vice mayor, said he also has been encouraged to run after rumors that Gray might run for Congress escalated in recent weeks. Kay said he’s weighing his options.
“I will look at it seriously,” he said. “I have enjoyed being vice mayor, and I think I have done a lot. … I would like to continue some of the good work that has been done.”
Moloney has served as the city’s chief administrative officer and in other top administrative roles for the city.
“I think a lot of people are looking at it,” he said. “Being a former CAO and commissioner of several different departments, I am seriously looking at it and keeping my options open for both races. We, as a city, are on the right track. But this pension issue is going to mean the city is going to have to come up with a lot of money in the years to come, and we need to make sure we elect the right person.”
Through a spokesman, Grimes said she is focused on her current job as the state’s chief election official but did not rule out a run for mayor.
“Sec. Grimes loves Lexington,” said Bradford Queen. “She is flattered that she is being asked to consider the race but, right now, she is focused on her job as Secretary of State.”
Kentucky’s public pension crisis means the city’s payments to the pension fund are likely to increase, causing a crunch on finances for years to come.
Beatty, who was defeated by Gray in 2014, said he will probably make a decision soon about entering the race. He is now an assistant vice president at the University of Kentucky.
“We are going to consider it but we want to do our due diligence first,” he said. “We want to make sure that we do the right thing, not only for our family but for the community as a whole.”
Edelen was not immediately available for comment.