A court fight over whether incumbent Shevawn Akers met residency requirements and had enough signatures to run for re-election has made the 2nd District the most-watched among Urban County Council races this year.
Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark ruled this month that Akers had met the requirements to remain on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Her opponent, Michael Stuart, had alleged that Akers had moved out of the district before filing for re-election and questioned the signatures she obtained to run for re-election. In August, she was given diversion on charges related to irregularities surrounding the signatures.
While Akers said it was "frustrating" to have to defend herself, she said she did not think the legal problems had created doubt in voters' minds.
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She said she had received "very positive" feedback from voters and considered the lawsuit challenging her candidacy "a desperate attempt (by Stuart) to discredit me any way he possibly can."
"A lot of people see this as really ugly on his part," she said.
Stuart said he was disappointed in the judge's decision, but it was "a small speed bump that we're going to go over."
"I don't mean it to be a distraction in this race," he said. "The most important thing was to get the truth out there."
Legal wrangling aside, both candidates acknowledge there are a host of issues facing the 2nd District, which covers a large swath of the northwestern part of the city.
The district includes older neighborhoods like Meadowthorpe and large newer subdivisions such as Masterson Station and McConnell's Trace. Residents are of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
"It takes a multifaceted approach," Akers said. "That requires someone that can multitask and identify all the different needs."
The area is poised for even more development, and Akers said one of her most important roles was "just helping the residents with the growing pains of change."
With all that growth, Stuart, who pointed out that he had been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was concerned that adequate police presence to ward off break-ins, theft and other petty crime was lacking.
"We need advocates on council to make this our priority," he said.
Akers, who also supports hiring more officers, said she had stayed in close communication with the police during her tenure and helped start a Neighborhood Watch program after a rash of crimes in Masterson Station this summer.
Stuart also said Parks and Recreation programming needed beefing up.
If elected, he said he would call for a task force to evaluate parks and rec programming in the district, and he wants Douglass Park to be enhanced with amenities "that you can't get at other places in Lexington."
"We need to make Douglass Park more inviting," he said. "Far more good happens there than bad."
On the topic of parks, Akers said she thought the district needed more park space, but the challenge has been finding available land and money.
The district also includes the Georgetown Road corridor, which both candidates said faces a disproportionate share of unemployment.
"I don't really feel like any headway has been made ... in the last two years," Stuart said. "We don't have enough advocates on council who want to create jobs."
He said he would reach out to employers in the area to urge them to hire from the neighborhood and to sponsor a job training center in the West End.
"The first step is building that relationship," he said. "It's about telling the story and asking, and right now it's not being done."
Akers, however, said, "I have been working for the last two years," but she said the challenges require a long-term approach.
She said she was part of a group of local stakeholders that has been meeting to work on the problems, that she had encouraged the police and fire departments to participate in a job fair at Douglass Park, and that she would like to see job training partnerships developed with nearby Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
"My job is to advocate on behalf of the district," Akers said. "I can't wave a magic wand. ... In 10 years we'll see a reduction in poverty rates. We'll see a reduction in unemployment. But it's not overnight."