Politics & Government

Mayor Jim Gray defeats Anthany Beatty to win second term

After Anthany Beatty conceded the race,  Mayor Jim Gray began a speech at his election night party at Belle's Cocktail House in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 4, 2014. The incumbent mayor of Lexington was re-elected to his second term. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
After Anthany Beatty conceded the race, Mayor Jim Gray began a speech at his election night party at Belle's Cocktail House in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 4, 2014. The incumbent mayor of Lexington was re-elected to his second term. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

Mayor Jim Gray became the first Lexington mayor in 16 years to win a second term Tuesday.

According to unofficial results, Gray easily bested challenger Anthany Beatty, a former Lexington police chief and a first-time candidate.

Gray received 65 percent of the vote. Beatty received 35 percent. That's one of the largest margins of victory in a mayoral race in a November general election.

Gray, surrounded by many relatives, told supporters at Belle's Cocktail House downtown that he appreciated Lexington's strong support.

"There's no greater honor in our democracy than a vote of public trust," Gray said. He pledged to continue to work to make Lexington better. "Yes, there is a lot more to do," Gray said. "We will keep looking for efficiencies."

But Gray offered few specifics on what the next four years will look like.

"When we keep our eye on the ball and keep in between the rails, then we'll be able to elevate the economic water table to help everybody," Gray said.

Gray praised Beatty for his civility during the campaign. The two had nearly a dozen forums over the past several months. Gray joked that the 12 forums were five more than the famous Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debates of 1858.

"We didn't tear each other apart as we tried to lift up our city," Gray said.

During a concession speech at the Beaumont Centre Clubhouse, Beatty thanked all of his supporters, especially his wife of 38 years, Eunice Beatty.

"We lost the race, but we won in terms of what we have done and what we have accomplished and the level of enlightenment that we brought to the Lexington community," Anthany Beatty said.

Pam Miller, in 1998, was the last sitting mayor to win a second term. Miller also had one of the largest margins of victory in a mayoral race in city history. Miller, in a 1993 race against Ted Mims, received 75 percent of the vote compared to Mims, who received 25 percent. Gray also did better in November than in the May primary.

In May, Gray received 56.6 percent of the vote, while Beatty received 37.9 percent. Danny Mayer, who was eliminated in the nonpartisan primary, received a little more than 5.5 percent of the vote.

This year's campaign was tame compared to previous mayoral races.

Beatty, 63, struggled to raise cash to get his message out to voters. He didn't run television advertisements.

Gray, the former CEO of Gray Construction, began running television ads in late September and was able to run a second round of ads shortly before the election.

Neither candidate ran attack ads.

Gray, 61, outraised Beatty nearly three to one, according to campaign finance records.

Beatty raised a total of $289,203.78 in both the primary and the general election. But of that money, $120,000 came from a loan or direct contributions from Beatty. Gray raised $847,238 in the primary and general election. Of that money, Gray contributed $75,000. Those totals include contributions up to Oct. 3, the latest campaign finance reports available.

In more than a dozen candidate forums, Gray and Beatty differed in only a few key areas.

Beatty charged that Gray let the number of police officers on Lexington streets dip in recent years, resulting in an uptick in violent crime during the summer and fall. Gray bumbled a plan to overhaul Rupp Arena and attached convention center by failing to get public and University of Kentucky support, Beatty said. Gray scrapped the project shortly after the May 20 primary.

But Beatty failed to gain traction with his message that Gray had made too many mistakes and that new leadership was needed.

In campaign ads and on the stump, Gray portrayed himself as a problem-solver focused on getting things done, including making major changes to city employee health insurance plans and cutting unfunded liability in the police and fire pension. Gray also touted key investments the city has made, including $3 million for affordable housing, a new senior citizen's center and the hiring of the city's first homeless coordinator.

Gray made history in 2010, when he became the first openly gay man to be elected mayor. Gray was vice mayor before beating then-Mayor Jim Newberry in a close race. Beatty was police chief for seven years before retiring in 2007. He is now an assistant vice president at UK.

Beatty said he didn't think money was the reason why Gray won, saying that he felt that his volunteers helped offset Gray's money. Gray simply had better name recognition, he said.

Beatty declined to say whether he would run again in four years, but he mentioned repeatedly that the organization had been put in place to continue to influence the decisions of Lexington's elected officials.

He also announced that he and his family plan to go to Disney World.

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