Democrat and businessman Craig Greenberg and Republican Bill Dieruf, currently the mayor of Jeffersontown, will be their parties’ nominees for Louisville mayor after winning Tuesday’s primary election.
Greenberg beat out seven other Democrats vying for the nomination, with Shameka Parrish-Wright and David Nicholson jockeying for the runner-up spot. In a thinner Republican field, Dieruf beat out his closest opponent, Chartrael Hall, by more than 10,000 votes.
They’ll face off in November in hopes of succeeding term-limited Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer, who is in his twelfth year of office.
Speaking on stage at his election night watch party in the Smoketown neighborhood, Greenberg struck a cordial tone, asking anyone who voted against him to approach him with new ideas for the city. He also reiterated many of his campaign promises: universal pre-K, expanding Louisville’s stock of affordable housing and revitalizing a downtown area hit hard by the pandemic.
“I think all of us here agree that our city is in great need of repair, revitalization, unity, energy, a sense of urgency and, most of all, action,” he said. “We don’t need any more studies. We know our challenges.”
Greenberg said his No. 1 focus is tackling the city’s “violent crime crisis.” Louisville has seen record-breaking gun violence over the past two years, including more than 180 homicides in 2021.
As election day approached, nearly every candidate touted their plans for bolstering public safety. Many shared similar threads of instituting community-oriented policing and tackling the root causes of crime through expanding access to community resources. Some, including Greenberg and Dieruf, also called for increasing the budget for the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Greenberg released a television ad earlier this month, saying he planned to “fully fund the police department” and “get illegal guns off our streets.”
“Together, we can make Louisville healthier, stronger and, above all, safer,” he said in the ad. “It’s now or never.”
Greenberg’s first advertisement focused on the Valentine’s Day shooting at his campaign office, when police say a gunman fired several rounds at him and his campaign staffers. No one was injured, but the ad featured a photo of a hole in Greenberg’s sweater where a bullet had grazed him.
Media coverage of the incident, along with Greenberg’s sizable ad buys, raised the local and national profile of his bid to become mayor in a crowded field of candidates.
Enidza Torres, 28, recently moved to Louisville and voted for Greenberg at her Iroquois High School polling precinct. Torres said she hadn’t done a lot of research on him, but she heard Greenberg’s name “float around more than most candidates.”
“Maybe that has to do with money or what he does in the city, but I’m just curious to see what he has to offer,” she said.
Torres said she was looking for a candidate who could bring the city together after the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the resulting protests in 2020, as well as revitalize Louisville’s downtown.
In total, Greenberg’s campaign spent $1.2 million in the leadup to Tuesday’s primary election. It was the most of any mayoral candidate.
Democrats far outpaced Republicans in campaign donations and spend, likely due in part to the fact that Democrats had twice as many candidates. David Nicholson, the current Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk, raised roughly $626,000 and spent all but $8,000, according to the latest filings with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Activists Shameka Parrish-Wright and Timothy Findley Jr., who both said their campaigns were focused more on grassroots organizing, raised a combined total of around $120,000. They each spent all but a few thousand dollars.
Dieruf now looking to make a historic win
No Republican has been elected Louisville mayor since Kenneth Schmied left office in 1969.
It’s a fact Dieruf is keenly aware of, but nevertheless thinks he can overcome. He has led Jeffersontown for the past 12 years without a party affiliation, and Dieruf said he has taken being nonpartisan seriously.
“We have had merger here in Jefferson County, we’ve merged the police, the public works, but we haven’t merged the people,” he said, speaking at his election night watch party at O’Shea’s Irish Pub in the Highlands. “We have to get rid of the stigma of a party.”
Dieruf’s pitch to Republican primary voters focused on his experience managing the day-to-day operations of a city, even though Jeffersontown’s annual budget is less than a tenth of the size of Louisville Metro’s. He said his top priority would be public safety and he planned to bring Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders with him.
“I don’t care if you’re in the West End, the East End, Dixie Highway or the South End, you want to feel safe when you get in your car to go to Kroger,” he said. “You just want that feeling that you don’t have to worry.”
Dieruf’s message also focused on Louisville’s need for economic development and jobs coming out of a historic pandemic. He touted his own experience working with employers in the Bluegrass Commerce Park, the largest business park in Kentucky, and called the planned battery manufacturing plants south of Jefferson County “the most significant economic development opportunity in decade.”
Of all the Republican mayoral candidates, Dieruf was the only one to raise a substantial amount of money in the primary. His campaign raised $370,000 ahead of the primary and still has nearly $250,000 in the bank.
Looking forward to the general election, Dieruf said he knows he’ll have to raise more money to match his Democratic opponent. Dieruf said he’ll also try to convince residents who have become disillusioned with Louisville politics that “there’s hope at the end of the tunnel.”
“The pessimism that Republicans can’t win is not out there,” he said. “There’s an optimism that I can make the city what it needs to be. They understand that what I bring to the table is someone that can work across all aisles.”
Both Dieruf and Greenberg will be on the ballot Nov. 8, alongside independent candidates David Ellenberger and Manetta Lemkheitir.
Jacob Munoz contributed to this story.