Unpacking the 2024 Lexington Council primaries: A look at the newcomers

Commentary by Paul Oliva, Editor

There were several shake-ups this week in the 2024 Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council primary elections. There are now candidates in 10 of the 12 primary races that will occur in May 2024. There are confirmed wide open races in Districts 7 and 8, where incumbents Preston Worley and Fred Brown announced they will not seek re-election. There were also new entrants into the District 1 and 12 races. This column will focus on the new entrants in 1 and 12. We will have additional commentary pieces in the coming weeks, as candidates will soon begin to file in 7, 8, and other districts.

As we dive into the twists and turns of Lexington’s local politics, it’s important to remember that this is a commentary and opinion piece. Here at The Lexington Times, we approach stories with a keen eye for the material impacts on our community. By exploring these events from this perspective, our goal is to shed light on the facts and histories that shape our city, in a way that speaks to every Lexingtonian, whether you’re chatting over coffee in your corner office or debating at the local barbershop.

The “Newcomers”

The “newcomers,” as we’ll call them, are already fairly well known in some circles. While neither has an opponent yet, their races have the potential to shape up quite interestingly, should another candidate throw their hat in the ring.

District 12 – Hilary J. Boone IV

Hilary J. Boone IV filed this week for the District 12 seat currently held by Kathy Plomin. Boone is the grandson of horseman and entrepreneur Hilary J Boone, Jr., the namesake of UK’s Hilary J. Boone Jr. Faculty Club and Hilary J. Boone Jr. Tennis Center, for which he provided funding. Boone runs Wimbledon Farm, the horse farm his grandfather started in the ’70s. He also owns BooneDogs Bar and Restaurant at the corner of Old Richmond Road and Jack’s Creek Pike.

The fact that Boone comes from a prominent Bluegrass horse family could indicate that he is the next iteration of Fayette Alliance’s effort to fight against the Urban Service Area expansion. Councilmember Plomin vocally opposed the expansion and appeared to coordinate with Fayette Alliance during its discussion. She employed an ex-director of the Alliance as her legislative aide and utilized her official newsletter to actively promote their anti-expansion stance. This approach makes sense, considering her constituents include the horse farms on the outskirts of Fayette County.

Plomin is currently in her fourth term and is not eligible to run for re-election due to term limits.

District 12 is primarily composed of areas outside the Urban Service Area, including many horse farms. (Google Earth graphic by The Lexington Times)

Reached by phone, Boone confirmed that he “believe[s] in the same things” as the current District 12 Councilmember, generally speaking. Having grown up on a horse farm in Fayette County, he said the process around Council’s 2023 decision to expand the Urban Service Area “sparked concerns” for him. Boone, 31, also alluded to a “new generation” stepping up to “protect the Bluegrass” with Plomin retiring.

Fayette Alliance is generally considered the lobbying arm of Fayette County’s horse farmers – the family of FA Chair, Mt. Brilliant Farm owner, and political mega-donor Greg Goodman heavily bankrolled the campaigns of Lexington’s anti-expansionist Mayor and Vice Mayor. Goodman and his family are hard to pin down politically–in late June they donated $8,200 total to Republicans Daniel Cameron and Andy Barr (Barr’s donations were through his “Kentucky Capitalism And Freedom Committee” PAC.) On the flip side, however, on June 12, five Goodmans including Greg each donated $2,100 to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s re-election campaign for a total of $10,500.

The family of Fayette Alliance Chair Greg Goodman is difficult to pin down politically, but they tend to coordinate their political donations at times, as seen here in June 2023. (KREF)

After Boone’s grandfather’s passed away in 2009, the Hilary J Boone foundation made gifts to Fayette Alliance in 2013 and 2014. Although Boone IV does not seem to have any overt ties with the Fayette Alliance, at least in a public capacity, he did recently express views that resonate with their objectives when he publicly opposed a development project located not far from his business on Old Richmond Road.

I understand that growth and development is inevitable, but it is all about how it is executed. Reasonable growth is good, too much growth is bad.

Hilary J. Boone IV, speaking at an October 17 Zone Change Hearing
Hilary J. Boone IV speaks against a proposed zone change on Old Richmond Road on October 17. (LEXTV)

One way to look at the debate over expansion and its relation to the District 12 Council race is a hockey analogy. The other team (the expansionist faction of the Urban County Council, led by Preston Worley and backed by a contingent of developers, builders, and realtors) just scored a go-ahead goal (the successful vote to expand the Urban Service Area) late in the third period. So now, Coach (Fayette Alliance Chair Greg Goodman) needs to get that tying goal (walking back/minimizing the impact of the coming expansion). To pull this off, he is subbing out his own goalie (Kathy Plomin, who is termed out) and putting in a fresh enforcer (Boone IV) who also happens to already be a local fan favorite in some circles. You can imagine how the hometown crowd (District 12 horse farmers) might react to this substitution, so if you want to take the analogy a humorous step further, I suppose you could also imagine that the other team’s captain (Worley) faked a hamstring injury and left the ice as soon as the substitution was announced. But who watches hockey, anyway?

District 1 – Tyler Morton

Tyler Morton

UPDATE: District 1 Councilmember Tayna Fogle filed a statement of spending intent with KREF on December 15. It was approved and published to their website on Monday. She is running for re-election.

The biggest surprise of the week was Tyler Morton filing for the District 1 Council seat. Morton, 25, previously served as legislative aide to current District 1 Councilmember Tayna Fogle.

Fogle recently wrote, “STAY TUNED FOR AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SOON!” in a Facebook post that referenced having “my eye on that election calendar,” but she did not specifically indicate that she was seeking re-election in District 1.

Given this, the interpretation of Morton’s filing hinges on what Fogle does between now and the January 5 filing deadline. If she doesn’t file, or files for something else, then Morton’s filing could be seen as a strategic move within the incumbent’s camp to pass the torch to the next generation. However, if Fogle files for re-election in District 1, it would set the stage for a relatively interesting match-up between a former aide and his old boss.

Fogle isn’t the type to tell the media something this important before she announces it to her constituents, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that she could be running for state legislature, given her ties to the statewide progressive organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, where she serves as a Lead Organizer. Shoot, maybe she’s running for President…Given the current field, I’d vote for her.

“See that sucker over there? Zero to sixty in 4.1 seconds,” says Joe Biden, in a hypothetical scenario wherein he endorses Tayna Fogle for President of the United States in 2024. (Meme by The Lexington Times)