Stunned by Jackie Green's sudden endorsement of Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer Friday night, Green's campaign manager, Tyler Hess, says he is taking a wait and see approach until Fischer proves himself worthy of the endorsement.
"Now Greg has to show that he deserves the endorsement of the most progressive candidate in Louisville in a half century," Hess said, adding that Fischer will have to demonstrate a change of heart on several key issues central to Green's campaign which focused on public transit and environmental concerns.
"This is less of an endorsement and more of a challenge," Hess added.
Contrary to statements from the Fischer campaign, Hess said that the Fischer camp reached out to Green first, inquiring about what it would take to win his endorsement. Green himself told WHAS11 that he approached both the Fischer and Heiner campaigns to discuss his endorsement.
"Chris Poynter, Brandon Coan, they reached out to us," Hess said, referring to two Fischer staff members, "They have provided us many drafts."
Mere hours before Green announced he was dropping out of the race to endorse Fischer, he told WHAS11 that Fischer had not yet met his demands.
"Greg and I do not see eye to eye at this point on public transit. We do not see eye to eye at this point on greenfield development," Green said.
But Green confirmed that he and Fischer had met face to face several times to negotiate terms of his endorsement, including a meeting Friday morning prior to the Advertising Federation debate between Heiner and Fischer at the Galt House.
"Greg made a very strong statement today," Green said, referring to Fischer's mention of public transit during the forum, "This is the strongest I've heard, this is the strongest statement that I've heard out of Greg relative to public transit. I applaud that. I encourage it. Is that enough? We have work to do yet."
With several reporters Friday afternoon confirming the endorsement negotiations, the otherwise closely held deal appeared threatened by questions of a quid pro quo. Green told WHAS11 that he wanted assurances that an Office of Sustainability would have real authority in the Fischer administration and that Green and his team would choose who Fischer hired to head the department, possibly Green himself.
Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter denied that any job was offered in exchange for the endorsement.
In the endorsement announcement, Fischer's campaign said the sustainability office would be a "Cabinet-level department that reports directly to the mayor and works to make Louisville a greener city. Fischer said he will consult with Green to provide significant input to help structure that office."
While most political endorsements are announced at a time and place to maximize media exposure, the Green endorsement was released to the media at 6:46pm Friday. Friday late afternoons are regarded as "news dump" opportunities, with the effect of as little media exposure as possible.
"It hit us pretty hard," Hess said, "I wish we could have talked over the weekend."
"I would have rather Jackie have told us," Hess said, adding that several of Fischer's positions on development issues are inconsistent with Green's views.
In an e-mail to his supporters, Green had laid out his demands:
Green camp needs:
1) the Fischer campaign to publicly
a) prioritize public transit as a higher priority than new interstate highway infrastructure and
b) commit to limiting greenfield development to projects that are so large that they cannot physically be placed in a local brownfield
2) Fischer to publicly commit to giving
a) the Office of Sustainability the staffing, authority and funding sufficient to make it successful and
b) the Green team the opportunity to elect the leadership of that Office.
"I'm proud in the shift in conversation," Hess said, looking back on Green's quixotic campaign.
Hess is unconvinced that Fischer is on board with Green's ideas and the question of whether to transfer allegiance is "someting all of us are mulling over right now."
Hess estimates that Green was backed by ten percent of the electorate, despite the most recent WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll which showed Green's support at three percent.
The reason we have outlined an either/or position with the Fischer camp......
If we are granted #1, then the public will hold the Fischer administration to the statement.
If we are not granted #1, but are granted #2, then the leadership elected by the Green team will hold the Fischer administration to standards (we are not convinced that the Fischer advisers have to date, as illustrated by the Fischer campaign material & statements, internalized these significant issues sufficiently).
If we are not granted #1 or #2, then the three candidate race continues.
As of this moment, the drafts forwarded have not met the requirements. We continue to work on it while we continue the campaign on buses, on streets, in the media, in groups, in forums (invited & excluded), etc.