Incumbent Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will face an English professor and a former police chief in the May primary for mayor.
Former police chief Anthany Beatty's announcement Tuesday came a day after Danny Mayer, an associate professor of English at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, filed to run against the first-term mayor.
The three men will face off in the May primary. The top two vote-getters will move on to the November general election.
Beatty's candidacy had been rumored for nearly a year before he finally issued an announcement Tuesday morning. He filed his papers with the Fayette County clerk just after noon.
Beatty, 62, was Lexington's first black police chief and, if he won the mayoral election, would be the city's first black mayor.
But, he said Tuesday, "It's not so much about race but about your ability, your character and can you do the job? I'm up to the task."
Asked why it took so long for him to decide to run, Beatty said, "I had to deliberate long and hard about making sure it was the right decision for all parties, for my family, for our community, and for myself."
Beatty, vice president for campus services and public safety at the University of Kentucky, is a Lexington native who graduated from Henry Clay High School, then earned degrees from Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University.
Beatty said that he did not have a campaign staff yet and had not set a fundraising goal for his campaign. But he will hold a campaign kick-off soon.
"I don't have a dollar figure," he said. "If I didn't think I could be competitive, we would not be standing here today."
Gray, 60, has raised more than $285,000 for the race, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Gray said Tuesday it is too early to predict the cost of the 2014 race.
Gray, former CEO of Gray Construction, contributed nearly $900,000 of his own money to his 2010 campaign for mayor.
Asked whether he would put some of his own money into this year's race, Gray replied, "I've always made the decision that an investment in our city is worth an investment by me."
Mayer, on the other hand, said he would run a limited campaign, and he plans to raise no more than $3,000.
"I hope that is something my campaign can focus on. It costs so much money to run a campaign," Mayer said. That means only the wealthy and connected can be in power, he said.
In 2010, Gray's campaign raised $1.8 million. His opponent, incumbent Jim Newberry, raised $1.2 million.
Gray also filed his candidacy papers Tuesday, saying his re-election effort would stress a continuation of the goals from his first mayoral campaign: creating jobs, running government efficiently and building a "great American city."
But he repeatedly returned to the importance of jobs creation.
"When we look at our landscape today ... it's still about creating jobs and the opportunity for good jobs," Gray said. "Good jobs give us purpose and meaning in life ... and that's why it is number one on my agenda."
He also left little doubt that he would tout his experience in the upcoming campaign.
"I've always believed that past performance is the best indicator of future performance, and that's what a campaign is all about," he said.
Gray served four years as vice mayor before defeating Newberry in November 2010. A longtime construction executive, Gray graduated from Vanderbilt University and was a fellow at Harvard University.
Gray spoke briefly with reporters Tuesday in front of supporters at the offices of his family's company, Gray Construction, then walked two blocks to file his papers at the county Clerk's office.
In addition to teaching, Mayer, 38, was editor of North of Center, a newspaper that was sometimes critical of Gray and other city officials. North of Center ceased operations last fall after four years. Mayer said he decided to enter the race because he preaches community involvement to his students at BCTC.
"I like Gray personally," Mayer said. But he differs with Gray on the need for a renovated Rupp Arena, which Gray has pushed for three years.
This month, Gray's campaign said his accomplishments during his first term and sizable fundraising kept potential candidates out of the race.
At that time, Rob Dible, Gray's campaign manager, said the window "for a credible challenge has closed." He said Gray's campaign recently commissioned a survey that showed "no potential opponent drawing more than 18 percent of the vote in a general-election matchup."
Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said Gray and Beatty would be good candidates.
"Mayor Gray has a very good reputation," Gorton said. "He has gotten a lot of heavy-duty issues fixed or on their way to being fixed, like the police and fire pension. He has a high approval rating. He is in a good position right now."
But local politics are difficult to predict, she said, calling Beatty a credible candidate.
"He was a police chief and a very popular police chief," Gorton said. "It's going to be really interesting."
Gorton is not running for re-election after serving nearly 16 years on the council.