RICHMOND — The contrast is stark between the race for Richmond mayor and the race for Madison County judge-executive.
The mayor's contest features an incumbent fighting for her political life, thanks in part to an aggressive opponent with unabated criticism about city spending.
The judge-executive's contest features an incumbent overseeing a balanced county budget and a virtually unknown opponent who has no campaign signs.
Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson, who has been in office since 2003, acknowledges she did not campaign much before the May primary, and it showed. Jim Barnes, a former Richmond city commissioner, won 69 percent of the vote to Lawson's 26.5 percent.
Barnes, 65, and Lawson, 70, face each other again in the Nov. 2 non-partisan election. This time, Lawson said, she is working hard to keep her position.
"You better believe it," she said. "I'm in the neighborhoods and I'm knocking on doors."
Barnes, meanwhile, continues to toss barbs the mayor's way about the city's deficit spending. An audit released in May by the state auditor's office showed that the city had a deficit of more than $3 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.
"We didn't put the brakes on (spending) when we had the chance," Barnes told an Oct. 12 forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Lawson contends the budget outlook has improved and is not as gloomy as Barnes portrays it. She said the city, among other measures, has reduced its work-force and overtime expenses; had no raises or longevity pay for employees in the current budget year; is doing a better job collecting some unpaid net profits taxes from businesses; and has even stopped buying coffee for city workers.
"We were never out of money," Lawson said. "We always paid the bills."
But Barnes argues that the city needs to cut further. He said, if elected, he would appoint an independent "finance board" composed of five business leaders who will make recommendations on how to straighten out city finances.
"Somebody's got to step up to the plate. We can't continue doing what we're doing," Barnes said.
Lawson said the city already has a finance committee that's open to the public and composed of a certified public accountant, finance director, city manager, city commissioner and herself.
"We were in bad shape, but we're not now," Lawson said. "We did run right into a ditch, but I would say we are moving along very cautiously and we're heading in the right direction."
Lawson raised and spent more than $15,000 in the primary, according to filings reported on the Web site of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. No report was available yet for the general election.
Barnes raised and spent $43,590 in the primary, according to registry records. For the general election, he has raised $14,169 and spent $2,132, according to 32-day pre-election filing. Among his contributors is former Richmond Mayor Ann Durham, who gave $1,000 in the primary and $1,000 in the general election.
Insider vs. outsider
Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark, a Democrat who was first elected to the job in 1993, faces Republican challenger Daniel Quick on Nov. 2.
Planning and zoning, water-line upgrades, sewer improvements and 700 acres in community parks have come to Madison County during his years in office, Clark, 58, said.
"We didn't have an acre of parks eight years ago," he said. "I've had some great fiscal courts that support me and work well with me."
Quick, 36, who owns a tumbling and cheerleading training center in Richmond, is making his first run for public office. He said it's time for someone else to take the county's helm.
"You've had a person in charge of the budget for 16 years and they're going to do things a certain way," Quick said. "I think it would be nice for somebody to step back and take a look at it from an outsider's point of view."
Quick said he has not made an issue of alcohol-related charges brought against Clark over the years.
In 1990, before he became judge-executive, Clark was charged with driving under the influence. The charge was reduced. He was arrested on another DUI in 2002, and pleaded guilty in 2003.
In 2007, Clark was charged with drinking in public, alcohol intoxication and disorderly conduct at the Russell County Fair. He pleaded guilty to having an open container of alcohol in public and entered an Alford plea on the alcohol intoxication. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is evidence that could result in a conviction at trial. The disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.
"I'm one of those guys where every four or five years I stub my toe," Clark said. He doesn't anticipate that these incidents have much traction for voters, although he said, "there are a lot of older people who do look at that."
No signs or visits
Quick, who has lived in Madison County for 10 years, acknowledges that he is not known by many voters. He has not bought any campaign signs, and he said he has not walked neighborhoods to knock on doors.
"I don't like it when candidates come to my home," Quick said. "As a voter, it's our responsibility to find out and decide who we want to vote for. I'm not necessarily sure that people should be knocking on people's doors just to introduce themselves."
Clark raised $79,500 and spent $40,329 in the primary, according to records. No report was yet available for the general election. No reports were listed for Quick.