Metro Louisville

Former Louisville Metro Council member Barbara Sexton Smith announced Monday she would help lead businessman Craig Greenberg’s campaign for mayor, ending rumors she planned to run herself.

That came on the heels of another prominent Metro Council member, President David James (D-6), announcing he was pausing his campaign for health reasons. 

Sexton Smith was a one-term Democratic representative for District 4 from 2017 through 2020. She is also the former CEO of Fund for the Arts. At a press conference, Sexton Smith acknowledged she had been mulling over a run for mayor, but couldn’t refuse when Greenberg asked her to be his campaign chair.

“I said ‘Yes, send me in, coach. I’m ready to go,’” she said.

Sexton Smith said she’s known Greenberg, a former CEO of 21c Museum Hotels, for more than 20 years, and she believes in his vision for Louisville.

“I see a person who has skill, experience, education and, more important, I see someone who has a spirit and mind to understand the moment we are in as a nation, as a city and as a people,” she said.

Greenberg left his post as the head of 21c Museum Hotels last year. He’s since partnered with Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones to buy Ohio Valley Wrestling. He announced in July he was also starting a new business firm focused on urban revitalization projects.

In launching his campaign, Greenberg promised to build 15,000 new affordable housing units during his first term, though he did not provide details for that goal. He also wants to focus on police transparency, improving public transportation and bringing new investment to west Louisville, according to his campaign website.

Asked by reporters what he thought would be the defining issue in the 2022 mayoral race, Greenberg said public safety.

“Barbara and I both believe that justice and equity and safety can all coexist. And that’s going to be our focus,” he said.

As campaign chair, Sexton Smith will manage the finances and day-to-day operations of Greenberg’s campaign, along with political organizing. The announcement brings an end to speculation that Sexton Smith was eyeing the mayoral seat for herself.

Sexton Smith said she had yet to make up her mind when Greenberg reached out to offer her the campaign chair position.

“As I said to everyone when I left the office of Metro Council on January 3, serving four years, I said that I was going to get very still and listen for my calling,” she said.

Sexton Smith’s ’s announcement followed  less than a day after Council President James announced via Twitter that he was suspending his campaign due to health concerns. 

Some considered James to be the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination. He told WFPL News he hasn’t made a decision yet about returning to the race, and is focusing on his health for the time being.

Greenberg is expected to face a crowded field of candidates vying to be the Democratic candidate for Louisville mayor. Overall, six candidates have announced their intention to run, including activist Shameka Parrish-Wright and third-term Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf, a Republican. 

The Republican and Democratic primaries will be held on May 17, 2022.

This story has been updated to include comment from David James.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.