The official 2010 council race for Lexington's 10th District pits a retired Lexington firefighter drawing a pension against an incumbent who has made a campaign issue of the shortage in the public safety workers' pension fund.
However, the two relative newcomers, Doug Martin and Kevin Williams, appear to see eye-to-eye on issues such as crime rates, street funds, road signs and parks.
Now, a third candidate has emerged. Former councilwoman Sandy Shafer, who withdrew from the primary race for health reasons, said Wednesday she has registered to run as a write-in candidate.
Since the primary, Williams and Martin have mostly sparred about pension fund issues.
Martin, the incumbent, was appointed 10th District councilman in 2008 by Mayor Jim Newberry after Don Blevins Jr. resigned during his second term to become the Fayette County Clerk.
His opponent, Williams, is a retired firefighter who was stationed in the 10th District at fire station No. 11 on Harrodsburg Road for several years.
In the primary, Martin had 2,095 votes, Shafer, 1,903 and Williams 775.
Williams moved to Lexington about four years ago from Irvine, where he was a member of the city council for four years. He is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Fraternal Order of Firefighters, the city's public safety unions. As of Oct. 20, he said he had raised $15,714.
Lexington native Martin is supported by Lexingtonians including former vice mayor Isabel Yates, former school superintendent Ron Walton and Alan Stein, founder and president of the Lexington Legends.
Martin had raised $9,470 for the general election as of Oct. 1 which included $3,410 left over from the primary election, he said. He didn't have his most recent numbers on hand Wednesday night, but he estimated he had raised around $5,000 more since then.
Both candidates say they support increasing funds to fix crumbling roads. They would like to widen Harrodsburg Road, which borders the district and often has traffic jams during rush hours.
Both would like to get money for storm sewers for the district to eliminate standing sewage in the streets and in houses during heavy rains.
And both candidates said they recognize that vandalism and thefts from vehicles and open garages have increased in recent years. They agree the problem could be better managed through education and prevention.
A big difference between the candidates is their opinions of the city's pension fund, which Martin calls "the single largest problem facing Lexington."
"We cannot afford to have a system that is leaking this much money," he said.
Both candidates agree the problem began years ago, when the city failed to match contributions to the pension fund made by police officers and firefighters.
"It's like a credit card," Williams said. "It's been a due bill for several administrations."
The debt has now topped $300 million, Martin said, an amount that could bankrupt the pension system and cripple the city's growth.
In 2009, the city borrowed more than $70 million to shore up the fund, Martin said, which did not cover the more than an $80 million increase in unfunded liability.
"There's never going to be enough money to catch this," he said.
While Williams acknowledged that changes to the fund need to be made, he said Martin's numbers were inaccurate and that he was exaggerating the problem.
"There's plenty of money over here to run the city. It's just being financially responsible and being transparent about it and holding people accountable ... on their spending," he said.
'A good system'
Williams said public safety employees were willing to work with the administration to make changes, but so far there had been no solutions acceptable to the city's thousands of emergency workers and retirees.
"It's a good system that needs some tweaking," he said.
Part of the problem, Martin said, is there is a low threshold for firefighters and police officers to retire with disability pay. But Williams, who said he was forced to retire after shoulder and knee surgeries, said emergency workers have to be at 100 percent of their ability to do their jobs.
Both candidates cited each others' connections as the reason for their views on the pension fund.
The firefighters and police "are supporting my opponent in this election because I think they want their representative on the council," Martin said.
Williams credited Martin's support of Newberry as the reason for his stance.
"He was appointed," Williams said. "He has to say those things."