Mayor Jim Gray and challenger Anthany Beatty have hit Lexington airwaves with new campaign advertisements in the past two weeks that tout their achievements in an effort to woo voters.
Gray, Beatty and English professor Danny Mayer will face off in the mayoral primary May 20. The top two votegetters will move on to the November general election.
Mayer, who has raised less than $2,000, has pounded the pavement and focused on his online presence, he said. He does not have television or radio ads.
Gray is running a television ad and radio spots on most Lexington commercial radio stations, said Rob Dible, Gray's campaign manager. Beatty, a University of Kentucky administrator and former Lexington police chief, has two radio ads and plans to have a television advertisement running soon, said Phil Osborne, Beatty's campaign chief.
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Gray's radio and television spots tout his accomplishments during his first term as mayor, focusing mainly on cost-cutting and financial reforms. Gray, former CEO of Gray Construction, was first elected in 2010 by beating Beatty's former boss, Mayor Jim Newberry. During Gray's first term, the city went through a major recession, and the city's finances were in disarray. Yet Gray was able to cut costs, he tells people in his television advertisement.
"We did this without cutting vital services. No layoffs in the police and fire departments, and no new taxes," Gray said.
In August 2013, the city increased by 1 percent the franchise fee for utilities to pay for additional streetlights. It also approved a slight increase in the property taxes for street sweeping.
Dible, however, said that the increase for streetlights is considered a fee, not a tax.
"For fiscal year 2014, the mayor proposed we fix our broken streetlight program — a vital public safety need — with an expansion of the fees assessed to gas and electric utility companies for operating in the public right of way," Dible said. "The council agreed and approved a 1 percent increase in the franchise fee, which is not a tax."
One of Beatty's radio spots includes an announcer talking about how Beatty grew up in Lexington, worked his way through school, became a Lexington police officer and was named chief in 2001, a position he held until he retired in 2007. He has been a vice president overseeing campus security at UK since January 2008.
Beatty also takes shots at Gray in his radio advertisements.
"After four years of Jim Gray lavishing money on downtown, it's time we put our neighborhoods first," Beatty said in one of the spots.
Beatty is referring in part to Gray's push for a rebuilt Rupp Arena and adjacent convention center. But the $351 million project has not yet received final approval from the state and the Urban County Council. The city has paid $2.5 million in design costs for the project and might pay an additional $2.5 million.
Meanwhile, Beatty said in his advertisement, Gray has "shut down fire stations."
No fire station has been closed since Gray took office in 2011. The city began "browning out" fire companies — taking them out of service for several hours or an entire day — in 2008 because of budget and staffing shortages. Brownouts were intended to eliminate skyrocketing overtime costs. The city used $640,000 from a budget surplus to end the brownouts in April 2013.
Osborne said that Beatty was not saying that fire stations were completely closed during that time.
"The 'shut down' reference is about the rolling brownouts, not any one station for an extended period of time," Osborne said.
The three candidates will have one final chance to trade barbs before the May 20 primary. On Monday, the Lexington Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV and the League of Women Voters will host a mayoral forum. All three candidates have committed to be there.