Abramson brings campaign to Clark County
Lt. governor hopeful emphasizes business development, fiscal management
Jerry Abramson, Democratic lieutenant governor candidate and the longest-serving Louisville mayor, spoke to members of the local Democratic Executive Committee and the Democratic Woman¿s Club of Clark County Tuesday morning. The event was held at Karen and Mack Bushart¿s home. (Katie Perkowski / July 13, 2011)
“And my role and my reason to run is to support Steve Beshear, to ensure that he’s successful and to do everything we can to ensure that the future is bright for Kentucky,” Abramson said.
The candidate was speaking at the home of Karen and Mack Bushart to members of the local Democratic Executive Committee and the Democratic Women’s Club of Clark County.
Some have questioned incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to choose Abramson as former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo’s replacement because Abramson is from a large city, Louisville, where Beshear already fares well based on the demographics. But Abramson, who has now visited at least 80 counties, said he brings small-town elements to the table because he has found that the issues he dealt with for as mayor of Louisville are the same ones more rural towns are dealing with.
“Remember I was the judge/mayor of the merged city/county for the last eight years, so I¿deal with jails. Every county is dealing with that issue. I deal with sewers. I¿deal with water lines. I¿deal with the issues of illegal drugs like methamphetamine. I deal with the issues of neighborhoods and parks. I¿deal with the issues of job creation, both in terms of starting your own business and supporting those efforts with low-interest loans and also supporting the existing businesses to grow,” he said. “And a solution that works in Madisonville is a solution that can work in Louisville. And a solution to a lot of those problems that we have found to work in Louisville can work in Prestonsburg.
“And so I¿have found that I have far more in common with the folks in the areas throughout the commonwealth than I¿have that separates us in terms of being from Jefferson County.”
Abramson, 65, was mayor of Louisville from 1985 to 1998, then mayor of the merged Louisville-Jefferson County metro government until 2010. Before his first term as mayor, he was a city alderman and general counsel to the governor.
Abramson didn’t give any specific plans or ideas to help small-town economies, but referenced what he has done in Louisville — helping existing businesses grow and attracting new businesses to its region. He cited Boulder, Oldham and Shelby counties as specific areas he’s helped.
Speaking to a crowd of about 30, he talked of Beshear’s time in office and called out his Republican opponent, David Williams, Kentucky Senate president, along with other governors for some of their actions during the 2011 legislative session.
While Illinois raised taxes to help balance the budget, and New Jersey laid off thousands of teachers, Abramson said, Beshear thought differently.
“In fact, this governor protected education as the cuts went forward,” Abramson said. “Now what do I mean about protecting?¿… Every time the legislature met … every time they had to make a cut, literally his opponent said ‘Let’s cut everybody across the board. Let’s cut every department across the board.’ That’s not what the governor said we were elected to do. What he said we were elected to do is to prioritize what’s important for Kentucky and to protect those things that are important, which meant that you had to take bigger cuts in some of the areas and protect what’s important.”
Discussing the bill to raise the legal high school dropout age from 16 to 18, which passed almost unanimously in the House but failed in the Senate, he blamed Williams for its failure.
“I can give you example after example after example where literally one man has stood in the way of progress in this state. So don’t let them tell you it doesn’t matter who’s going to win,” he said, and later added that he and Beshear would continue to push for the passage of that bill in the next legislative session.
There’s a significant difference in terms of the two approaches, Abramson said: “Protect education or cut across the board. Protect public safety, or cut the budget across the board. Protect economic development, or cut the budget across the board.”
Recently, Republicans have criticized Abramson for his discretionary fund spending of $200,000 during his last term as mayor of Louisville, but Abramson, in short interview after his speech, again defended this spending.
“Since the early 70s, every budget that was submitted to the council has a line item called ‘mayor’s discretionary fund’ and every time when the budget passed, it said ‘mayor’s discretionary fund to be given at the discretion of the mayor,’” he said.
Items he paid for with the discretionary fund include: a brunch for legislators at the Derby, which he said was also funded by money from 12 other businesses; an expensive dinner in Washington, D.C., which business leaders with lobbyists in Washington attended, where he said he laid out the city’s agenda in Washington on each attendees’ plate; and contribution to the rental of a stage and sound system for the University of Louisville’s 2007 Orange Bowl celebration at Fourth Street Live in Louisville.
“I don’t back down from one allocation of the dollars that my own discretionary fund gave,” he maintained. “It was also on the website, so the last few years, you could get on the website and see exactly what I spent it on.”
County Judge-Executive Henry Branham attended the event and said that under Beshear and Abramson, education, economic development, jobs and health care would be issues of high priority, and that it seemed the administration would use the same strategies that the current one has used for the last four years.
Branham took Abramson around the city a bit, including a visit to City Hall, where Mayor Ed Burtner showed him through the building. Burtner, who is a friend of Abramson and has worked with him on the Kentucky League of Cities, said they didn’t discuss any specific issues, and his actions shouldn’t be taken as support or nonsupport for the campaign.
“My actions today were what I¿would do for any public official that comes through City Hall and wants to go through the building and meet the staff,” he said.
Branham said the Democratic Executive Committee and the Democratic Women’s Club of Clark County will organize other similar events through the election in November.
Four or five people gave money directly to the Beshear/Abramson campaign following Abramson’s Tuesday appearance, Branham said. Devora Kaye, a staffer on the campaign, said Tuesday’s event was successful, and the campaign will report how much was raised in its next required campaign finance report.
Contact Katie Perkowski at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at TheSunKatie.