Politics & Government

A sweeping victory behind him, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray faces new challenges in second term

Mayor Jim Gray celebrated with supporters on Nov. 4 after being elected to a second term.
Mayor Jim Gray celebrated with supporters on Nov. 4 after being elected to a second term. Lexington Herald-Leader

Mayor Jim Gray will begin his second term in January with the support of an overwhelming number of Lexington voters, a new vice mayor and five new council members.

Gray trounced former Lexington police chief Anthany Beatty on Tuesday, winning by a 30-point margin. Gray received 65 percent of the vote while Beatty received 35 percent, according to official results.

Moreover, the 61-year-old first-term mayor performed better in November than in the May primary, election and precinct results show. Gray won 269 of 291 Fayette County precincts Tuesday. In May, he won 217 precincts.

Gray said Wednesday that he was humbled by the support he received.

"It's encouraging that the vote was this favorable and endorses the work that we have been doing," Gray said. "Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done."

Gray outraised Beatty nearly 3 to 1, according to campaign finance reports. Gray raised $847,238 in the primary and general election, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Beatty raised a total of $289,203.78, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Beatty said Tuesday that he didn't think Gray's flush campaign coffers gave him an edge. Gray's strong showing was the result of his near-universal name recognition in Lexington, Beatty said.

Beatty, who served on the police force for 35 years before retiring in 2007, was a first-time candidate. Gray, who successfully defeated then-Mayor Jim Newberry in 2010, had previously served as vice mayor and had run unsuccessfully for local office before being elected vice mayor in 2006.

Gray, however, chalked up his showing to a strong grass-roots campaign and a consistent message. "Past performance is the best indicator of future performance," he said.

Gray scrapped a controversial renovation of Rupp Arena and an attached convention center after the May primary. Beatty struggled to find an issue that resonated with voters after Gray delayed the project.

But Gray said Rupp Arena continued to dominate the campaign even during the general election.

"Anthany brought up the Rupp issues at every debate. It got a thorough vetting," Gray said. "The decision that we made about Rupp was made because UK was not ready to move forward."

The University of Kentucky is Rupp's main tenant.

Walker Mattox, Gray's campaign manager, said Gray's message of sound fiscal management and creating more jobs had universal appeal.

Gray also used his money wisely. Not only could he afford television and other traditional media, but he spent money on online advertising. Gray might be one of the first Lexington politicians to run advertisements on Hulu, an online streaming video service that allows people to watch popular television shows. Hulu, unlike YouTube, will not allow viewers to skip ads.

Mattox said the campaign focused on multiple advertising platforms to ensure that it was engaging the entire population — not just certain segments.

Steve Kay, who received the most votes in the six-candidate at-large race and will be vice mayor in January, also spent his money wisely. Although Kevin Stinnett and Richard Moloney, who finished second and third respectively, raised more money, Kay held on to his money and spent much of it in the last 10 days of the race, he said.

Stinnett and Moloney will serve as at-large members come January.

Kay said he and Gray already have a good working relationship.

"I have been very supportive of his work and the work of his administration," Kay said.

But that doesn't mean Kay won't ask questions of Gray and the administration, he said.

"If there is something that we — either as individuals or as a council — think is not being handled properly, we have to ask questions," Kay said.

Gray said Wednesday that he already had spoken to Kay and looked forward to working with him during the next four years.

"Steve is thoughtful and fair," Gray said. "His background in collaborative decision-making is something that I have a lot of respect for."

Kay, 71, is a professional facilitator for public policy organizations.

Both men said Wednesday that the city would have a packed agenda during the next four years. Come January, there also will be five new council members: Jake Gibbs in District 3, Susan Lamb in District 4, Angela Evans in District 6, Fred Brown in District 8 and Amanda Mays Bledsoe in District 10.

The new 15-member council will have seven women, which is thoughtto be the most women ever to serve on council in merged government history.

The city's to-do list includes overseeing a $600 million overhaul of the Lexington sewer and stormwater systems, a new senior citizens center, a new emergency operations center, and paving and other road projects.

"There has been a need for more investments in parks," Gray said. "There also needs to be a master plan for parks. We've had one, but it needs revisiting."

After years of back-and-forth, the council finally agreed to fund affordable housing initiatives and a homeless services coordinator. But the council still must take key votes on what the city's affordable housing program will look like. The city also will continue to grapple with how to manage growth and preserve Lexington's small-town feel and quality of life, Kay said.

"We are an attractive community; people want to be here," Kay said. "How do we absorb that growth and protect our quality of life? How do we grow and protect our rural landscape? That's the bigger conversation that as a community we need to have."

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