Q&A: Newberry, Gray discuss Lexington issues

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It's the battle of the Jims - Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray - to determine who will lead Lexington over the next four years.

Last week, Gray held a narrow lead over Newberry according to our Kentucky Poll.

The poll found 44 percent of likely voters plan to vote for the vice mayor over current Mayor Newberry, who was the choice of 40 percent of those polled. Sixteen percent remain undecided.

Commissioned by WKYT and The Lexington Herald-Leader, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., interviewed 500 registered Fayette County voters last week about what has turned into the most expensive Lexington mayor’s race ever.

Gray scored best among women and Independents. While Gray's slightly ahead among all voters, he and Newberry are essentially neck-and-in-neck among men, Democrats and Republicans.

So far, the campaign has been hot with no signs of cooling down before election day.

To cut through the political chatter, we went directly to the two candidates to ask them the same questions and get their answers.

First, we asked, "What is the most important issue facing Lexington today?"

Vice Mayor Gray responded, "Right now, wasteful spending. The water company and the excessive spending there has illustrated it as well as anything. Spending $7,000 a foot on South Limestone is another example of that. Coming out of a period of extravagance and now being in a recession has made everybody aware of what we spend, we spend carefully."

Mayor Newberry said, "The economy and providing jobs for those who need them. This has been a remarkably difficult period in our nation's history. The national recession has been felt here. We've got too many people throughout central Kentucky and the entire country who need good paying jobs. So, keeping that at the forefront everyday as we try to attract and retain employers is clearly our top priority."

Next, we asked, "What makes Lexington special?"

The two candidates both agreed that Lexingtonians makes Lexington a special place.

"There are lots of things that make Lexington special and we could probably talk a great length about that list. Certainly, the landscape that surrounds this place we call home, our magnificent and defining characteristic," Mayor Newberry said. "But, I think the thing that really sets Lexington apart is the wonderful people that live here - the quality of those folks is remarkable. We've just seen that in a lot of conversations with visitors here during the World Equestrian Games. I heard repeatedly how hospitable folks in Lexington were. And so, that's consistent with my own experience and I have to say the people of Lexington are what really makes Lexington a special place."

Vice Mayor Gray said, "What makes Lexington special are its people and it's potential. When I think of this city - it's rich 235-year history, 65th largest city in America, and the aspirations of the people here. That's what makes it so special. These people really love this town. It's a special place."

For both Newberry and Gray, experience was among the reasons why they each though they were the best candidate for mayor.

"Thirty-eight years in business has given me a wonderful perspective on creating jobs. What it's like to create a community that is working to leverage all that's special about it. The business experience gives you more than just an understanding of balancing the check book. It gives you an understanding of how to imagine the future and create a vision that folks can embrace and work around," said Vice Mayor Gray.

Mayor Newberry responded, "I think I've got a demonstrated track record of results. When you look at what's happened over the course of the last four years: we've created jobs in our economy, we've managed responsibly, we've tackled the tough problems that have been lying around for years, and together we've helped Lexington to move forward. Because of that, Lexington is a much better place. I've got two sons and I'm hopeful that as they grow older that they'll have the opportunity to find great work here and will want to live here. And, I'm dedicated to making sure that happens in our community to making Lexington a special place. We've made good progress but there's more work to be done."

The two differed in what they thought was the positive characteristic of the other.

"I think he's got a great ability to grab a headline. He knows how to say the magic words to get a lot of attention in the media. That's a nice attribute for a politician to have," said Mayor Newberry.

"Jim's a good lawyer and he's going to be a good lawyer for the rest of his time. I know that he'll be working on good things for the city and that's always a good thing," Vice Mayor Gray said.

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