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Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer and Republican candidate Hal Heiner debated Wednesday at the Louisville Forum. Independent candidate Jackie Green was not included.

If you missed the debate, you can listen to it online, or on WFPL at 8 pm Wednesday.


The Greater Louisville Hotel and Lodging Association hosted a debate Tuesday between Democrat Greg Fischer, Republican Hal Heiner and independent Jackie Green. (click here for an mp3 of the debate)

The three mayoral candidates were not asked about a recent poll that showed Fischer and Heiner tied in the race, and compared to the last debate, Tuesday’s was fairly calm…at least it was on stage. After the debate, campaign staffers took the opportunity to criticize each others’ bosses. This is normal post-debate action, but it’s not too often that campaign staffers directly address each other. LEO’s Phillip Bailey has the story of an exchange between staffers over Heiner’s answer to a question on gambling, which representatives from both campaigns were discussing with us.

A few moments after the luncheon was over, Fischer campaign spokesman Chris Poynter and Joe Burgan, Heiner’s campaign manager, got into a brief argument with each other about the question over expanded gaming.

The moderator raised a scenario asking that if putting slot machines and other casino games in Jefferson County was on the ballot, how would each candidate personally vote on the initiative.


“Why won’t Hal Heiner answer the question about gaming,” Poynter asked LEO.

“Why do you guys want to follow Hal into the voting booth,” Burgan asked, after approaching the conversation.

“Please, ask him,” Poynter said.

The two spokesmen took a few more jabs before parting ways, and it was unusually testy spin contest between the two campaign that could prelude a contentious race.

Before leaving, Burgan told LEO that this demonstrates that the Fischer campaign is worried about how close the race is given the recent mayoral poll, which shows 21 percent of Democratic voters are supporting Heiner.

“They should be 15 points ahead,” says Burgan. “But they keep pushing wedge issues. If Greg Fischer can find a way to divide this race (and) he’ll repeat his dirty 2008 U.S. Senate campaign. When times get tough he’ll revert to that same tactic.”

Perhaps the most revealing part of this week’s mayoral debate was the moment when candidates asked each other questions. The questions can hint at campaign strategies, and since it’s early in the general election, the direction the candidates took is interesting.

Independent Jackie Green asked Democrat Greg Fischer and Republican Hal Heiner to differentiate their policies. This shows Green’s dedication to his assertion that the major party candidates are too similar to bring about real progress on environmental and transportation issues, among others.

“In November, voters will choose either the old business as usual, energy-greedy, energy-dependent local economy, or voters will chose a new energy-lean, energy-independent local economy that can meet the challenges of the future,” said Green in his closing statement.

Fischer asked Heiner about his appearance at a Tea Party rally during the primary and whether he believes Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul‘s policies are right for Louisville. Fischer appears to be countering Heiner’s apparent attempt to lure in progressive voters by reminding those voters that Heiner is a Republican. Progressives who like his stance on bridge tolls or his political distance from Mayor Jerry Abramson may not like his stance on other issues. Heiner, however, said that other candidates’ platforms are irrelevant to the mayor’s race.

“I am not running for anybody else’s campaign, on anybody else’s platform or what they stand for or don’t stand for, and, quite frankly, an analysis of various candidates at any level or any party on their positives or negatives of their backgrounds, quite frankly, is inappropriate in a mayor’s race,” he said.

Heiner, again possibly shooting for the Democrats who didn’t support Fischer, asked about Fischer’s closeness to Abramson, and whether the mayor’s office was Fischer’s second choice after his 2008 Senate bid. Fischer responded that his past candidacy and his charitable work show his desire for community service.

“When you take a look at where the real benefit, the leveraged benefit can take place, it is through government service, through public service,” said Fischer. “Whether it be in the United States Senate or as mayor. Running for the U.S. Senate taught me that I enjoyed this,” he said. “I like people. I like solving problems.”

And as others have mentioned, the Ohio River Bridges Project was absent from the debate. No one asked about it. No one brought it up.

The Kentucky County Judge Executive Association and the Kentucky Municipal Clerks Association are holding a forum Thursday morning between Senate candidates Jack Conway (D) and Rand Paul (R). WFPL will cover it and we will hopefully have an mp3 posted online.

Here is the link to the full audio of today’s mayoral forum, sponsored by the Louisville Downtown Management District. After the debate, you can hear a special edition of State of Affairs analyzing the debate. (I’m one of the guests).

The headline says most of it, this press release says the rest:

89.3 WFPL will broadcast a live debate of the Louisville mayoral candidates on Tuesday, February 16th from the Conference Theatre of the Kentucky International Convention Center. The debate will run from noon until 1:30pm and will focus on issues related to downtown Louisville. Mark Hebert form the University of Louisville will moderate. At least nine of the eleven candidates have signed on to participate.

WFPL’s State of Affairs® will offer some post-debate analysis from 1:30 to 2:00pm.

The debate is sponsored by the Louisville Downtown Management District.

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