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Teresa Isaac endorses Jim Gray for mayor of Lexington

Mayoral candidate Jim Gray spoke after being endorsed by former Mayor Teresa Isaac, in background, at a news conference in a parking lot at Third and Race streets in Lexington Tuesday. Charles Bertram|Staff

By Andy Mead –

Former Mayor Teresa Isaac endorsed Vice Mayor Jim Gray for the city’s top job Tuesday, promising to walk neighborhoods and attend neighborhood meetings with her former foe.

“I believe he is a true leader,” Isaac said.

Isaac said she has known Gray, a businessman, for more than 20 years, and has found him to be accessible, and someone who values diversity and inspires his employees.

About 80 Gray supporters attended the endorsement announcement, which was held on a stage that had been set up in a parking lot at East Third and Race streets.

Isaac has traditionally done well in that area north of downtown, which is heavily African American.

Isaac was elected in 2002, beating Scott Crosbie in the general election after Gray was eliminated in the primary. Crosbie, who now supports Gray, introduced Isaac Tuesday, repeatedly calling her “Isaacs.”

Lexington mayoral race goes negative

By Andy Mead –

As the Nov. 2 election draws closer, the candidates for mayor of Lexington have switched from feel-good television ads that tout their accomplishments to cut-throat attacks on each other.

A series of 15-second ads from the campaign of Vice Mayor Jim Gray, for example, tie Mayor Jim Newberry to spending scandals at the Blue Grass Airport and the Lexington Public Library, and attempt to blame him for the 37 percent rate increase that Kentucky American Water wants to pay for a new water treatment plant on the Kentucky River north of Frankfort.

Newberry supported the $164 million project, saying Lexington needed more water, but has opposed the increase as excessive.

Another ad blames “Newberry’s political contributors” for the more than $50,000 the city spent looking into fraud allegations before an investigation by State Auditor Crit Luallen found that no fraud had taken place.

Campaign Watchdog: Claim that Jim Newberry supports water rate increase ‘false’

By Andy Mead –

The statement: “Guess who supports the water rate increase? Jim Newberry.”

— Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray in a television ad criticizing Mayor Jim Newberry

The ruling: False.

The facts: Jim Newberry supported a $164 million Kentucky American Water treatment plant and pipeline that began operating late last month, but he has consistently said he opposes the 37 percent rate increase the company has asked the state Public Service Commission to approve to pay for the project.

Newberry has said the project was needed to augment the city’s water supply, but Kentucky American is trying to squeeze too much profit out of its investment.

The Gray campaign had it right in an earlier ad that mentioned “Jim Newberry’s support for American Water’s construction costs.” But Newberry has opposed how the utility recoups those costs.

Jim Gray loans his campaign for mayor another $280,000

By Andy Mead –

The candidates for mayor have raised about $1 million each in what has become the most expensive city race in Lexington’s history.

The job pays $120,000 a year.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray, a businessman who is taking a leave of absence from his family’s construction company, reported Wednesday that he had raised $575,000 in the general election campaign, including $280,000 he loaned to his own campaign.

When his primary campaign is included, Gray’s total is $1,042,000. More than a third of that, or $380,000, is in loans from the candidate.

Mayor Jim Newberry, an attorney seeking a second term, reported raising $434,000 since the primary. When his primary finances are included, he has raised $997,000.

Newberry has not loaned money to his campaign. His wife, Cheryl Ann, contributed $1,000 in the primary and another $1,000 in the general election campaign. She is a homemaker.

Lexington mayor candidates debate city worker issues

Welcome to the Bluegrass Politics Debate. Each Wednesday and Thursday through the end of September, the candidates for mayor of Lexington — Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray — will debate a topic chosen by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The candidates ask and answer the questions. Questions are limited to 35 words. Answers, which will be posted online by 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, are limited to 75 words. Rebuttals, which will be posted online by 6 p.m. on Thursdays, are limited to 35 words.

The entire debate will appear in the Sunday City|Region section of the Herald-Leader, as space allows.

Week 8 topic: City workers

Newberry’s question for Gray: To avoid damaging layoffs and save millions, I’ve reduced government payroll by 250 plus positions and cut the Mayor’s Office budget 32% since 2008. Why is council budget down less than 1% under your watch?

Gray’s answer: Once again you’ve ignored our city employees. I continue to support responsible management of Lexington’s resources but most importantly our tax dollars and I’ve had to intervene to stop your wasteful spending. All four public employee membership organizations endorsed my election, including those who supported you in the past. Firefighter Chris Bartley says, “We’ve been under attack the past three years. Jim Gray’s open-door policy will be a refreshing change.” Read more at

Newberry’s rebuttal: Throughout this debate, you’ve failed to answer virtually every question I’ve asked. Just like your record as vice mayor, you just criticize. You’ve offered no real leadership or solutions. What have you been waiting for?

Gray’s question for Newberry: City employee Pam Brandenburg has said, “We just want our voices heard again. We simply cannot afford another four years of Jim Newberry.” Why not talk with and listen to city employees?

Newberry’s answer: City employees helped me make changes that now enable our government to operate faster, better and cheaper. While other cities suffered massive layoffs, I protected essential city jobs during the worst national recession since the 1930s. But I work for the entire community, so I’ve made tough decisions. I tightened government’s belt, saving at least $15 million annually and cutting the bureaucracy by 250 positions. My staff and I took two-week furloughs. You did nothing.

Gray’s rebuttal: Your attitudes expressed here demonstrate the significant differences in how we value employee contributions. Building Gray Construction I’ve learned to value employee opinion and leadership. Public employees recognize the difference and support my election.

Unions for city workers choose Gray over Newberry

By Karla Ward –

All four unions representing city employees have endorsed Vice Mayor Jim Gray in the upcoming mayor’s election.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 526 and Gray’s campaign announced the group’s support for Gray on Monday.

The city’s two Fraternal Order of Police lodges, which represent police and corrections officers, and the Civil Service Employees Association already had endorsed Gray.

“This is very encouraging,” Gray said in a telephone interview. “The way I look at this is the way I look at this in our business. Any good business and any good manager needs the support of their employees, and that’s what leadership is all about.”

Jim Gray points to ‘scandals’ of Newberry administration

Jim Gray talked with members of Knitters for Gray outside the Sidebar Grill early this month. The vice mayor has taken a leave of absence from his job as CEO of Gray Construction to campaign for mayor. Mark Cornelison | Staff

By Andy Mead –

Jim Gray never sits at his desk.

That’s because there’s no chair, and the desk itself is a modern design raised to a height for standing.

“You won’t have a meeting with me sitting behind my desk and others sitting on the other side,” Gray said. “That’s a barrier. I believe in removing barriers.”

Gray, who is Lexington’s vice mayor, is taking a leave of absence as president and CEO of Gray Construction while he runs for mayor. He recently returned to the company’s headquarters to talk with a reporter about the race.

It was a fitting setting because the company, and the East Main Street building in which it is located, are frequently mentioned when Gray talks about why he believes voters should promote him to the top spot.

“This city deserves a level of experienced leadership that someone in business can provide,” he said.

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry points to accomplishments in first term

Mayor Jim Newberry spoke to Charles Logan, left, and Dolores Gumm at a Thursday Night Live concert at Cheapside Park on Sept. 2. Recent changes downtown have included the Cheapside area. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

By Andy Mead –

When The Rev. Bob Baker was considering moving from a small rural church to Lexington’s Calvary Baptist Church 19 years ago, a private conversation with a lawyer named Jim Newberry was a turning point in the decision.

Newberry, who was on the pastor search committee, told the minister Lexington offered a good quality of life, art museums, and educational opportunities, and was a great place to raise a family.

Baker recalled that conversation recently in talking about why he thinks Newberry is a good mayor.

“I see his ability then to sell Lexington on an individual basis carried over into his ability as mayor … to help sell Lexington to our broader community, to Lexington and to the world,” Baker said.

Newberry, 54, now is trying to sell voters on a four-year extension to his contract, with “Moving Lexington Forward” as his campaign slogan.

Newberry launches his first fall TV ad

By Andy Mead –

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry on Thursday launched his first television commercial of the fall campaign, but he lags behind opponent Vice Mayor Jim Gray on bringing his message into people’s living rooms.

The Newberry ad touts his accomplishments — new jobs, more recycling, traffic improvements, reduced spending — with a caveat that “I didn’t do it alone, but working together, Lexington is moving forward.”

The political ad files at Lexington television stations show that Newberry is spending more than $21,000 on the ad, which will run through Oct. 3 on some stations.

His opponent, Vice Mayor Jim Gray, has run two ads in the general election. The ad files show he has spent more than $150,000 on television ads.

Gray accuses Newberry of ‘detached and dismissive management’ at jail

Welcome to the Bluegrass Politics Debate. Each Wednesday and Thursday through the end of September, the candidates for mayor of Lexington — Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray — will debate a topic chosen by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The candidates ask and answer the questions. Questions are limited to 35 words. Answers, which will be posted online by 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, are limited to 75 words. Rebuttals, which will be posted online by 6 p.m. on Thursdays, are limited to 35 words.

The entire debate will appear in the Sunday City|Region section of the Herald-Leader, as space allows.

Week 7 topic: Fayette County Detention Center

Gray’s question for Newberry: There are widespread concerns of gross jail mismanagement, a demoralized staff, investigations, and lawsuits by corrections officers for sexual harassment and retaliation. Shouldn’t taxpayers expect better?

Newberry’s answer: We’ve taken many steps to resolve abuse problems at the jail that we inherited from the previous administration. We have worked with jail management to increase transparency and improve employee oversight. We’ve decreased turnover. Our successful jail programs are used as state/national models. As vice mayor, you’ve never so much as visited the jail or talked to jail management about your alleged concerns. If you’re so concerned, why have you been missing in action?

Gray’s rebuttal: Blaming others for your mismanagement? Talk to jail employees, read the newspaper and court records; everyone but you says there’s big problems at the jail. Like the tourism signs, you’re not getting the job done.

Newberry’s question for Gray: At the jail we improved security, transparency, employee turn-over, cut overtime expenses and put inmates to work picking up 25 tons of trash. What improvements have you initiated at the jail as vice mayor?

Gray’s answer: The decision to engage non-violent offenders in supervised work release community service is a common sense policy that has been utilized by many communities and one that I have supported. While you demonstrate great skill at tooting your own horn, in fairness, an independent judgment of your performance is more honest: your own employees at our jail know your pattern of detached and dismissive management, and they have endorsed me. Read more at

Newberry’s rebuttal: You’ve supported my jail improvements, but now that it’s campaign season, you criticize them? In four years as Vice Mayor, you’ve failed to offer one jail initiative. Lexington deserves more than a Monday morning quarterback.