Isaac makes run for mayor official

And now there are three.

Former Lexington Mayor Teresa Ann Isaac, who has been running to win her old job back since early last year, officially launched her campaign Thursday in the lobby of the Government Center, where she once occupied the top-floor office.

Jim Newberry, who now works in that office, is seeking re-election. He also is being challenged by Jim Gray, the vice mayor. The race is non-partisan.

Isaac's entry probably completes the field for the May primary, where one of the three will be eliminated. The filing deadline is Jan. 26.

Don Dugi, a Transylvania University political scientist who follows local races, said that at this point, he thinks Newberry, as the incumbent, probably is the front-runner. The real race in the primary is for second, he said, adding that Gray probably has the edge there.

But, Dugi said, Isaac is a master of "retail" politics, the type of campaigning that emphasizes local events and meeting individual voters.

"She loves to campaign," he said. "She loves politics."

Dale Emmons, a Richmond-based political consultant who is not connected to any of the candidates in the race, agreed that incumbents usually start out ahead.

But this year, he said, voters are frustrated, the economy is bad, and voters might want something different.

"I think the mayor's got his hands full," Emmons said. "I think people who are seeking change will go for Jim Gray."

While Dugi and Emmons agreed that Newberry and Gray are the most likely candidates to advance past May, both said it is too soon to predict who might win in November.

Isaac, 54, was mayor from 2003 to 2006. She also served nine years on the Urban County Council, including a stint as vice mayor.

She was soundly defeated for re-election as mayor in 2006 by Newberry.

While Isaac was mayor, the city enacted Kentucky's first smoking ban. It also engaged in a long, unsuccessful fight to acquire Kentucky American Water.

In an interview Wednesday, Isaac said she thinks that both of those things were the right thing to do, but they cost her at the polls when she faced re-election.

"I think every position I took was for the best interests of the community," she said.

As mayor, Isaac often was at odds with the council, and she engaged in a running battle with then-Vice Mayor Mike Scanlon. Isaac said her defeat had less to do with those fights than with the smoking and utility condemnation issues.

Isaac refrained from directly criticizing the job that Newberry has done.

But she said that in the community and school meetings she has attended during the past year, people have told her they are dissatisfied.

"They say they feel there's no one in the mayor's office who truly cares about every part of the community," she said.

In her announcement Thursday, she said her administration left the city in better financial shape at the end of her term than at the beginning, enhanced public safety and increased police salaries, encouraged infill development, united diverse groups, supported senior citizens and young people, listened to city employees, and treated all areas equally.

Since leaving office, Isaac has been teaching, most recently in the business administration department at Midway College. She has a law degree, but the only time she has practiced law lately is supervising cases related to her job as executive director of Lexington's Fair Housing Council.