Thieneman endorses Heiner, controversy ensues


by Joe Arnold

Posted on October 27, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 15 at 3:35 PM

   LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Five months after the primary, former mayoral candidate Chris Thieneman endorsed fellow Republican Hal Heiner Monday, but not without some drama. 

Thieneman said he knows that Heiner hasn't bargained for endorsements because Heiner rejected Thieneman's initial endorsement offer when it had strings attached.

Amid questions of whether Democrat Greg Fischer traded influence over a Metro agency in exchange for the endorsement of former independent candidate Jackie Green, Fischer subsequently has called Heiner a liar and hypocrite and accused him of doing the same thing to procure the endorsement of former Democratic primary mayoral candidate Tyler Allen.

With Heiner not apprised in advance of Thieneman's endorsement, and after a GOP primary in which Thieneman characterized  Heiner as a "career politician" insider whose commercial property in Southern Indiana represented a conflict of interest, it was not initially clear if Thieneman had come to praise Heiner, or to bury him.

"We met and we discussed my endorsement," Thieneman began.

The developer and South End advocate then revealed that he attempted to leverage his 30 percent Republican primary support and strength in the South End, where he won a third of the precincts.

"So I asked Hal, I said 'Hal - do you think you could find a position for me to where I could represent the South End in the areas that they've always been neglected?'  And when I talked to Hal about that, he said - 'Chris I understand where you're coming from, I appreciate what you are standing for in the South End,' but he said, 'I can't do that.'

Thieneman says Heiner explained that such a deal would be unethical and contrary to Heiner's platform of open, honest government.

"I would love to have your endorsement," Thieneman recalled Heiner saying shortly after the primary, "but if it means that I have to give you anything, then it's best that i don't."

Since then, Theinemen was still dropping his name as a potential deputy mayor. But said he came forward now as a rebuke to Greg Fischer's allegation.

"After the Greg Fischer and Jackie Green endorsement scandal, I felt like I couldn't be on the sidelines anymore," Thienman said.

In a statement, Fischer implied that Heiner was involved in Thieneman's endorsement, despite both Thieneman and Heiner's campaign saying otherwise.

"This is what candidates who are behind in races do - they try to distract voters," Fischer said, "Louisville deserve better than that. I'll remain focused on the real issues - creating jobs, putting people back to work, investing in neighborhoods and improving our schools."

Thieneman said he thinks Fischer is unfairly sullying Heiner's name in an attempt to cloud the controversy over the Green endorsement, which Thieneman said "is the kind of thing that could throw this election into courts for years to come."

"From first hand experience, (Heiner) is not that kind of man," Thieneman said, "I had to stand up even though how it may make me look.  But no matter how my intentions were good, and he said, 'Chris, no.  I'm not going to do it no matter how good your intentions are.'"

"This man is what  the city needs. He's the most honest , forthright politician that this community could have as the next mayor of Louisville," Thieneman continued.

He said since the primary, his respect grew for Heiner, but that he kept his support for Heiner private because of the nature of his original offer.

"So today, I am offering my endorsement as Republican mayoral primary runner up to Hal Heiner with no strings attached," Thieneman said inside a Dixie Highway fitness club in a strip center Thieneman developed, "and (I am) encouraging my fellow South End and supporters across the county that Hal Heiner is best."

The Heiner campaign said it welcomes anyone and everyone's support.

Asked about his previous criticism of Heiner during the primary, Thieneman said he has had to take a fresh look at his primary opponent.

"Hal is very quiet and I took that quietness as meaning that he wasn't doing anything about it," Theineman explained.

"The more I was around him I said, you know, he's not quiet because he's not doing anything, he's quiet because he's thinking."

Another former Republican primary opponent, Jonathan Robertson, also reiterated his endorsement for Heiner at the news conference, saying Heiner was receptive and respectful" when Robertson offered ideas.