Metro Council candidate defends right to help pick Democratic no - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Council candidate defends right to help pick Democratic nominee

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Pat Mulvihill Pat Mulvihill

By Marcus Green and Chris Otts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Pat Mulvihill, a former top aide to Mayor Greg Fischer, is one of nine Jefferson County Democratic Party officials who plan to name the party's choice for a vacant Metro Council seat on Sunday.

But Mulvihill is also a candidate for the vacancy, and he has no plans to recuse himself from the panel that will select the Democrats' nominee for the November election for the 10th District council seat Jim King held until his death last month.

Mulvihill, a lawyer who used to be Fischer's general counsel and is now director of the Jefferson County Attorney's Office's civil division, said the party rules don't require that he refrain from the nominating process.

“I want to abide by the rules, and I will follow whatever the rules say,” Mulvihill said in an interview. “If you are on the election ballot and you believe you are the best candidate, you are naturally going to vote for yourself.”

While it's up to the local Democratic party to decide which name will be on the ballot in November, the Metro Council will choose which of 13 people will fill King's seat until the election.

In this case, the party plans to designate its nominee before the council picks the temporary replacement.

Tony Hyatt, spokesman for the council's Democratic caucus, said the council has filled four previous vacancies (all Democratic seats) since 2005. In each instance, he said, the council chose its replacement member before the Democratic party selected the nominee for the ballot.

“This would be the first time a political party has told the council, ‘Here is our nominee. You all go ahead and choose that person,'” Hyatt said. “The local Democratic party has never done what they are trying to do now.”

The party plans to choose its nominee one day before the Metro Council interviews the 13 candidates who have applied to fill King's seat, on Monday. The Metro Council will then vote to fill the seat during its Feb. 12 meeting.

Jefferson County Democratic Party chairman Bill Ryan said that the party isn't trying to dictate to the council which candidate it should select.

“We're just trying to tell the city council who the Democratic Party in Jefferson County prefers. … Hopefully they'll interview some great people and make up their mind,” Ryan said.

As for Mulvihill's role in the nominating process, Ryan said it's “common” for a member of the nominating committee also to be a candidate, but he couldn't point to a specific example.

“Normally it's someone who is involved,” Ryan said. “They've worked hard, so why shouldn't they be able to vote?”

Tim Longmeyer, the former county party chairman who is now secretary of Kentucky's Personnel Cabinet, said state and local Democratic party committees have taken their guidance on nominating candidates since the 1970s from the national party. Generally speaking, he said, “a delegate can vote for themselves.”

“The state and local party rules are silent on it,” Longmeyer said.

In January 2006, the Democratic party chose then-Metro Council member Ron Weston to run as the party's nominee in a special election to fill the House of Representatives' 37th District seat vacated by Perry Clark.

But Weston, who was also vice chairman of the 37th legislative district for the party, “normally would have voted (to select the nominee) but didn't since he was a candidate,” The Courier-Journal reported at the time.

Weston was also the only candidate the Democrats considered nominating, the newspaper reported.

The nominating committee consists of Ryan and party leaders representing three state legislative districts within the boundaries of the council's District 10. Ryan said the votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats, and Mulvihill's district makes up 55 percent of the committee's vote.

Mulvihill is the party's vice chairman for the 35th legislative district. Colleen Younger, the 35th District chairwoman, and at-large representative David Clark are the other two representatives from the 35th district, according to the party website.

Besides Mulvihill, state Rep. Reggie Meeks serves on the nine-member nominating committee and chairs the 42nd legislative district. Meeks' brother, Michael, is one of the candidates whom the council plans to interview.

Reggie Meeks did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone on Wednesday.

Ryan said he doesn't view those connections as potential conflicts of interest. Speaking about Mulvihill, Ryan said: “The President of the United States—if he got down to one vote, who would he vote for?”

After reviewing the Kentucky Democratic Party's bylaws, Younger said, “I don't see anything that prohibits him from being able to vote.”

Younger dismissed any concern that Mulvihill's candidacy could influence other nominating committee members.

“I don't know that his presence would be any more influential than anyone else's,” she said. “The truth is, many of these people – all of us have had relationships with.”

Younger said, for example, she used to work at the Legislative Research Commission with Meeks. Another candidate, Steve Magre, was once her representative on the old Louisville Board of Aldermen.

Hyatt said regardless of the party's action, council members still intend to give all 13 candidates a fair chance at the appointment.

“Our point in listening to them is, tell us what you want to do in the district, what your goals are…We'll be very open about the people we talk to and who we might choose,” he said.

Marcus Green: 502-585-0825, Twitter @MarcusGreenWDRB

Chris Otts: 502-585-0822, Twitter @christopherotts

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