Horse industry, real estate dominate Gorton contributions; Kloiber uses family money
Lexington, Ky–Mayoral candidates in Lexington-Fayette Urban County had different approaches to campaign finance in the 2022 General Election, with one candidate self funding from his personal wealth and the other relying on contributions of $250+ from a wide spectrum of industries dominated by the horse industry and real estate.
Incumbent Mayor Linda Gorton, a Republican, received 268 individual contributions for a total of $112,663.42, and an average contribution amount of $420.
CM David Kloiber, a Democrat and son of a wealthy tech entrepreneur, raised $594,755.97, but almost all of it was from his own family’s money. (He did receive individual donations from the Vice President of the YMCA, the General Manager of the Post Office, and a local investor, as well as 4 unitemized donations of $100 or less.)
Horse and Real Estate money dominates for Gorton
(Mobile users, rotate your phone to view interactive pie chart.)
An analysis of the listed occupation and employer for Gorton donors who gave $250 or more yields the following breakdown of contributions by industry:
Analysis of Gorton contributions, courtesy of North of Center
Danny Mayer is a writer for North of Center, a local publication following Lexington politics since 2009. In past years he has analyzed political contributions in local races and even gave an assessment of Fayette County’s donor class in 2020. I provided him a copy of the contributions breakdown to get his take on what it all meant.
Horse farm owners opposed to soccer complex gave $10K to Gorton
Mayer pointed out that a sizable portion of the horse industry money came from Greg Goodman’s Mt. Brilliant Farm. Goodman and family gave Gorton $10,000 total for the General Election. In 2022, Goodman led an effort to block a soccer complex development near the farm on Lexington’s north side that was eventually successful after the Mayor came out against the new complex.
|Mt. Brilliant Farm
|Mt. Brilliant Farm
|Mt. Brilliant Farm
|Mt. Brilliant Farm
|Mt. Brilliant Farm
|Mt. Brilliant Farm
Horse farms, the Urban Service Boundary and housing affordability
Mayer says the horse industry money and the soccer complex issue expose a deeper priority for Gorton, which he describes as an: “increasingly way-outlier stance on holding the Urban Services Boundary to save our (horse) farmland.”
Urban Services Boundary explainer, courtesy of CivicLex:
Lexington’s local government (LFUCG) governs a lot of different pieces of life in our city, from taxes to parks to snow plows. One of the most unique powers that LFUCG has is the control of something called the Urban Services Boundary, or USB for short. This boundary is a line around the city of Lexington that contains almost all new development of buildings inside of it – leaving the remainder of the county as rural, natural, or agricultural land.
The Urban Service Boundary controls the ability of land to be developed and receive city services like water and sewer. It is controlled via ordinance by the City of Lexington, and has been historically changed through the city’s Comprehensive Planning process.
If you have ever been driving along a major corridor like Versailles or Nicholasville Road and you suddenly start to see a lot more green, you have likely crossed to the other side of the USB.
Horse industry, Gorton oppose expanding USB, but would it relieve housing pressure?
The Fayette Alliance, a horse industry group where Greg Goodman sits on the board, opposes expanding the Urban Services Boundary, saying it would disrupt farming and increase “urban sprawl.”
Urban sprawl is the unmitigated expansion of a city, often characterized by generic housing communities and single-use zoning. If infill redevelopment seeks to build cities upward, sprawl spirals outward, often without consideration for the holistic wellbeing of a city and its inhabitants. Studies have shown that urban sprawl degrades the habitat, pollutes the environment, and propagates racial and social inequality. Sprawl also increases the cost of infrastructure, because far-reaching and outspread communities require more roads and more utilities, and these costs fall on the taxpayers.“What is urban sprawl and why is it something we want to avoid?” — Fayette Alliance
CivicLex gives some reasons in favor of expanding the USB:
- Population Growth – Lexington/ Fayette County’s population grows every year, and as more and more people live in the city or county, they will need more and more housing, amenities, jobs, and space.
- Density and Sprawl – one of the main conversations about growth in Lexington is about whether to grow “up or out”. Some people prefer less dense living situations, including single family housing and space between lots. Others prefer reducing sprawl and increasing density, mainly through more multi-unit housing and mixed-use development (like a building with a store on the ground floor and apartments above it).
- Housing Prices – It’s no secret the Lexington, along with the rest of the United States, is experiencing a pretty serious affordable housing crisis. Many people advocate that expanding the USB would allow more houses to be built, increasing supply and reducing demand (and therefore, prices). However, many others argue that building more new houses doesn’t guarantee that those houses will be affordable, and support other options for increasing the amount of housing available in Lexington, like infill and redevelopment of vacant properties.
Mayer adds that when Mayor Gorton was first elected, she was seen as a continuation of Democrat Jim Gray’s administration, and running against a former Police Chief, who wanted to expand the USB.
This to me has been the big shift this election. Gorton, the Republican, was endorsed by the Herald-Leader and voted into office as an extension/completion of the Democrat Jim Gray’s mayoral projects: TBCommons, Rupp, MET, ColdStream (sorta).Danny Mayer, North of Center
Gray was able to hold off USB growth by selling donors on value of downtown infill (developers, UK-employed, artists, millionaire horse-owners who needed places for visiting friends to go) and continued old-school suburban growth outside of New Circle (everyone else). This made housing worse (and the city pretty far behind on off-Main amenities), and so you’ve seen a turn away from that.
First, with (Democratic mayoral candidate) Bastin in 2018: He wanted to expand the USB, which is a big reason why the Herald-Leader went against its tendency to endorse Democrats by refusing to endorse Bastin and casting him in the race against Gorton as the right-leaning MAGA candidate endorsed by the police.
Kloiber and Gorton weigh in on donors, rural land use
Both candidates weighed in on the topic of campaign finance and the Urban Service Boundary to the Herald-Leader in September:
Some of Gorton’s donors are big names in the horse industry, including Greg Goodman, owner of Mt. Brilliant Farm, and John Nicholson, former president of the Kentucky Horse Park.
In an opinion piece for the Herald-Leader, Gorton came out against Lexington Sporting Club’s proposal to put youth soccer fields on Newtown Pike. Goodman and others in the horse industry had opposed the location of the youth soccer fields. Lexington Sporting Club pulled the proposal after Gorton’s opposition and recently won approval to put the youth fields off of Athens-Boonseboro Road.
Kloiber said Gorton is clearly using her political power to help powerful donors.
“While reviewing the mayor’s op-ed and engagement on certain issues, I have seen how strongly she supports the interest of her largest donors over issues pressing to the community at large,” Kloiber said.
Gorton said she has long been a proponent of the rural land area and the farming community. Gorton grew up in a farming community in Ohio. Her father sold Ford tractors and later managed a grain elevator.
“I’m disappointed that with everything going on in our community, my opponent would try to make this an issue,” Gorton said. “I have been a proponent of the rural area, voted to put the Rural Land Management Plan into place 22 years ago, before I even had donors.”
The Rural Management Plan helps guide management of Lexington’s land outside of the urban service boundary or growth boundary.
“His claims reflect a total misunderstanding of the importance of our rural, agricultural business,” she added.Herald-Leader: Thanks to hefty loan, Kloiber leads Gorton in fundraising in Lexington mayoral race
Both candidates’ positions were also recently featured in an LEX18 segment. Kloiber supports expanding the USB, while Gorton opposes it:
Councilman David Kloiber, who is challenging Mayor Linda Gorton in the upcoming mayoral electing, said he would like the see that boundary expanded to help create more affordable housing in the city, and prevent rising rents from forcing people out.
“We need to make sure the people who work in our city can live here, and the people who live here are not pushed out,” Kloiber said. “We need more housing to make sure our prices go down, it’s supply and demand.”
It’s an idea that Gorton says both won’t work and is unnecessary.
She points to two things; the first looks toward the past to show what could happen in the present. When the boundary was last expanded in 1996, the space left over was filled with almost no affordable housing, she said. The second, she says, is how there is still a lot of land left inside the boundary where more housing can be built.
“Just expanding the boundary won’t bring affordable housing, we know this from experience,” Gorton said, explaining that her current plan has been working, and the focus should be on putting more resources on it to make it more successful. Millions of dollars have poured into the effort and 3,000 units have been built since 2014, she said.Should Lexington’s urban boundary expand? Mayoral candidates weigh in on affordable housing challenge
Other donors of interest:
Mayer pointed out some other donors of interest from the campaign finance reports:
Adam Edelen: Former Democratic candidate for governor. Now owns a solar company. Mayer notes that, “sometimes in Central KY solar goes inside horse pastures. Gorton has expressed a rhetorical interest in ‘smart’ agriculture. Might be connection there, beyond the sort of general white mushy center that seems to connect most Lexington politicians.”
|Founder & CEO
Real estate was ranked second in terms of large Gorton contributions, with $8,300 or 8.5% of Gorton’s $250+ contributions coming from realtors, developers, and others in that industry.
Mayer also notes, regarding Kloiber:
Having noted Real Estate support for Gorton, Kloiber is doubtlessly also supported by Real Estate interests. His downtown building has investors. Who are they? His family money comes through his dad’s partnerships w/ other Lexington-based entrepreneurs. Who are they? He’s tried to get Council to fund the tech-forward guys & gals at that start-up incubator place on East Main Street.
Another way to gauge Kloiber’s support might be to look at who didn’t re-up w/ Gorton from her 2018 run? At the time, she would have been viewed somewhat more favorably by the Jim Gray crowd. Which people have peeled off support or downgraded their support?
A number of high ranking local government officials contributed to Gorton. On one hand, it shows that the people in her administration support her. But on the other hand, some are political appointees who would have to look for new jobs if she loses in November.
Mayer notes that many retiree donors are still active in the industries they retired from in one way or another.
Some of those retired people will be connected to industries that have large donation footprints. (I’m guessing, for example, that a Van Meter retiree might be ultimately a horse-farmer, etc.) Not sure how to metric those–on the one hand, the large # of retirees suggest an age-focus to her donations; but on the other, they’re also connected to specific pre-retiree interests.
Kloiber accused of “trying to buy the Mayor’s race”
In a recent debate, Gorton said Kloiber is “trying to buy the Mayor’s race” by using his family’s wealth to fund his campaign. In their endorsement of Gorton, the Herald-Leader added,
His insistence that loaning his campaign more than $500,000 would keep him insulated from special interests made it appear that he thinks only wealthy people should run for office.Herald-Leader Gorton Endorsement
Kloiber’s father Daniel founded Exstream Software and sold the company to Hewlett Packard in 2008. According to court documents, the 2008 sale price of the company was $720 million, with $200 million worth of its stock held in a Dynasty Trust, a long-term trust created to pass wealth from generation to generation without incurring transfer taxes.
In response to Gorton’s claim in the debate, Kloiber said that self funding made him less beholden to donors. However, since Kloiber technically loaned his campaign committee the over $500,000 he’s put in thus far, he could still legally accept contributions after the election in order to retire his campaign’s debt and recoup some of the money he put in. Holding such a fundraiser would raise eyebrows, most likely, since 100% of the proceeds would effectively go into Kloiber’s pocket.
Kloiber’s campaign manager, Deborah Slone, scoffed at the proposition of a post-election fundraiser:
No, David is not interested in hosting fundraisers after his victory. While it is legal under campaign finance law, he believes it reeks of impropriety, and is something we should address in campaign finance going forward.
If you have any other questions about the finances in David’s campaign he is an open book and happy to address any specifics.Deborah Slone, Campaign Manager, David Kloiber for Mayor
Guess only time will tell if Kloiber sticks to his word in the event he prevails on November 8.
I don’t think he’ll need any help retiring his debt… For him, the benefit of no political donations is that it can help hide the constituencies he’s going to go to bat for. I’m not sure we know yet what Kloiber’s focus will be in office.Danny Mayer on Kloiber self funding his campaign
Sat, March 2, 2024