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Hollowell answers questions on first day as Councilman

by Maureen Hagrman


Posted on July 1, 2010 at 5:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 6:33 AM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - Thursday was the first day on the job for the Louisville Metro Council's newest member, University of Louisville Pan-African Studies professor Deonte Hallowell.

The 31 year old registered Independent emerged as a compromise candidate after two other contenders could not garner the necessary 13 votes, or a majority of the then 25 elected Metro Council members.  The stalemate was decided in Metro Council offices and hallways during a one hour recess that ended at 10pm. 

It came at the end of five hours and 33 previous ballots, each of them indicating that the race was down to two candidates, attorney Neeka Parks Thompson and Fairness Campaign co-founder Ken Herndon.

Vote after vote, in and out of recesses and backroom negotiations, neither could reach the 13 votes needed.

Even after Democrat Judy Green switched her vote to Herndon, he could only knock at the council door.

A litany of votes produced the same result, Parks-Thompson 10, Herndon 12.

At about the 13th ballot, some council members suggested adjourning until after July 4th.

"I'd rather take a beatin' with a stick than do that," replied Council President Tom Owen (D).

With word that Council Member Jim King (D) was on his way, driving back to Louisville from a business trip in Ohio, presumably delivering Herndon's 13th vote, the Council recessed for one hour.

Then, Republican Glen Stuckel, who had been voting for Herndon, threw a curveball on the 22nd ballot. 

"I've given a lot of thought to this.  Two excellent candidates.  Two very worthy of the office.  I'm going to change my vote back to Ms. Thompson," Stuckel said.

"He voted for me for two hours and then he moved," Herndon said later.

Shortly thereafter, King cast his first ballot of the marathon evening for Herndon, but with Stuckel's defection, it was still not enough.

As the council cast its 28th ballot about 9:00pm, Councilman Brent Ackerson (D) told the council that he was missing his daughter's sixth birthday to vote for Herndon.

"Sophie, Daddy loves you," Ackerson called out to the Metro TV audience, "Happy birthday.  Pop Jon and Daddy will be home soon."  "Pop Jon" is Metro Council Republican Jon Ackerson, Brent's father and the only Republican to vote each ballot for Herndon.

"At this point I continue to cast my vote for Ken Herndon," Brent Ackerson said, only to be rebuffed by the echo of the council clerk.

"There are 11 votes for Ms. Thompson and 12 for Mr. Herndon," the council clerk said.

"At this point, we are in a stalemate," said Council member Robin Engel (R) after a subsequent vote.  Engel called for another one hour recess to allow for the arrival of fellow Republican Kevin Kramer, who was flying in after a National League of Cities meeting in Washington, D.C.

It was during that recess that the compromise was brokered.

"Jim King said, 'would you go with Dr. Hollowell?'" acknowledged Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin (D).

"His name surfaced as a possibility because he will hold this place for four months," King said.  The Democratic party is expected to name its own candidate to run against Hallowell in November.

"Yes, I was surprised," admitted Neeka Parks Thompson, adding that she will seek the Democratic nomination to fill the remaining two years of Unseld's term.

She was no more surprised than Dr. Deonte Hollowell, who was reached at home by a telephone call from city hall.

As he drove to city hall, the vote revealed the compromise.

"There are 7 votes for Mr.  Herndon and 17 votes for Mr Hallowell," the clerk said,

"That's enough to make the selection," Owen declared.

Hallowell was elected with the support of all but one Republican, The 31 year old Pan-African studies professor is a registered independent.

"I have a conversation with people on both sides of the aisle and again I'm so fresh and so new that I want to get my feet wet first before I actually start talking too much politics," he said Thursday.

On his first full day as a Metro Councilman, Hallowell picked up on one of his predecessors causes -- the scourge of vacant and neglected properties.

"I do think I agree wholeheartedly with what (Unseld) wanted to see the 6th district actually look like," Hallowell said.

What the Metro Council looked like was of paramount concern to the NAACP -- that insisted George Unseld's replacement also be African-American. 
All of the white Council Democrats backed Fairness Campaign co-founder Ken Herndon, who is white.
African-American attorney Neeka Parks-Thompson was supported by all but one Republican, all but one of the African-American council members.

"Now I've heard that this seat has to be occupied by an African American," acknowledged Councilwoman Judy Green (D) during the debate, "I want this seat to be occupied by a person who is going to serve African Americans."

Asked if it important that the choice  be an African American, Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin said, "No - when they wanted to compromise, that was the only name they brought to us."

"It's important to the degree that my experience as an African-American have some sort of uniqueness, but I don't think it was a determining factor in people who voted for me," said Hollowell, "I think people saw my passion for the community, my spirit as a whole and people were accepting of that."