Fayette County

Incumbent Diane Lawless faces three challengers in Lexington council race

Stephanie Spires
Stephanie Spires

Three challengers hope to defeat Urban County Councilwoman Diane Lawless as she seeks a third term representing Lexington's 3rd District, which encompasses much of downtown and the University of Kentucky.

Daniel Cooper, Rock Daniels and Stephanie Spires are running against Lawless — the only incumbent council member who faces opponents in Tuesday's primary election. The top two vote-getters will compete in the November general election.

All four candidates said a key challenge of the job is meeting the needs of older neighborhoods that border a growing university campus while ensuring that downtown Lexington is vibrant.

Although incumbents almost always enjoy a financial advantage over competitors, Spires has matched Lawless in fund-raising, according to election finance records filed earlier this month.

Spires had raised $12,891.00 and spent $12,653.85, according to the report. Lawless reported raising $12,896.04 and spending $4,382.55. Daniels reported raising $8,805 and spending $7,789.41. Cooper trails the other candidates, raising $220 and spending $31.21.

Daniels has been the most vocal critic of Lawless's tenure on the council, sending a mailing to constituents this week that criticizes her attendance record at Urban County Council meetings, among other things.

Lawless dismissed the claims.

"I work hard," she said. "I'm responsive to my constituents. It's a 50- to 60-hour-a-week job."

Daniel Cooper

Cooper, 23, is a network programmer at the University of Kentucky and said he serves as vice president of the Aylesford Place Neighborhood Association. In that position, Cooper said, he advocates for the protection of neighborhoods from encroaching development, and preservation of historic areas. He pledged to continue those efforts if elected.

Cooper served as an intern to former Councilwoman Andrea James, working on projects such as trying to establish a community development corporation for Lexington's East End.

If elected, Cooper said, he wants to create a program that will license residential landlords, requiring them to submit to code inspections when between tenants and at any tenant's request.

He said he hoped to establish a student liaison with the 3rd District council office that would maintain contact with the student body to voice concerns.

Rock Daniels

Daniels, 35, is a Realtor who has published an extensive plan that closely resembles the Fresh Start plan Mayor Jim Gray offered during his 2010 campaign. With his plan, Daniels said, he would promote downtown Lexington, support the growth of local businesses, and work on traffic and historic preservation issues.

In 2009, he served on an ad-hoc committee that helped rewrite the goals of the Lexington Downtown Development Authority and has since helped other Realtors in developing an interactive map of downtown for the authority's Web site, authority officials said.

Daniels said that residents complain of speeding traffic in neighborhoods and that he would work on enforcement efforts to slow those drivers.

He said he would try to create safer, cleaner more "walkable neighborhoods," and look at ways to provide more bus and trolley service to more residents.

Diane Lawless

Lawless, 60, is a former accountant who took office in 2009 after her retirement as director of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center. She touts several efforts to deal with rising tension between single-family homeowners and burgeoning numbers of UK students who call the district home.

Lawless said she pushed for a temporary moratorium on allowing landlords to convert single-family houses into dorm-style rental housing and worked to limit the number of unrelated people who may rent a home in certain neighborhoods. She also advocated for escalating fines for code enforcement violations.

If re-elected, Lawless said she would continue to focus on correcting problems with flooding and sanitary sewers in the district. She pledged to help stop the demolition of downtown properties.

Lawless said she has met with UK President Eli Capilouto and is working to determine how the city and UK "can capitalize on the assets of both for the benefit of both."

Stephanie Spires

Spires, 31, is founder and president of an event management, communications and fund-raising consulting firm. She formerly worked as an advisor to the Kentucky House majority whip.

Spires said she plans to push for laws that encourage preservation, responsible and energy-efficient development, and respect for the rights of homeowners and students. She said she would "promote code enforcement to ensure that those laws are enforced."

Spires said she would advocate for road repairs and modernization in a district that has some of Lexington's oldest neighborhoods. She said she supports growth that also preserves historic structures.

She pledged to work to make Lexington a more livable city by improving parks, promoting the building of more affordable housing, and improving services to at-risk youth.

Spires, a foster mother, is a member of the city's youth development and public safety commission. She also serves on the Lexington Public Library board of trustees.

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