In a message sent to fellow members, Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, announced her bid for council president, setting up a race against Councilman Jim King, D-10, who is considered the main contender for the position.
The e-mail was sent to council members late Sunday evening, and in it Ward-Pugh acknowledged that many members have already committed to supporting King.
However, Ward-Pugh, who was re-elected to serve a third term in November, believes her record of bi-partisanship and independence is needed in dealing with a new administration and other controversial issues in 2011.
“I believe I can be a strong voice for both parties moving forward,” says Ward-Pugh. “In this year when we will be dealing with redistricting, I believe all of us need to have the confidence there will be a fair process and as little partisan influence as possible on both sides. I’m confident I can guarantee fairness.”
Since merger, the council president’s role during a one-year term has expanded as the chief negotiator for the legislative branch with the mayor. The president is also responsible for naming committee chairmen, sits on every committee and sets the agenda items for council meetings.
For four consecutive years the council has elected a Democrat as its president due to the majority caucus voting as a bloc. If next year’s 17-member Democratic caucus agree to stick together it is assured that their party will retain the seat. The last Republican council president was Kevin Kramer, R-11, who held the position in 2006.
A former mayoral candidate, King served as council president in 2008 and is seeking a second term as head of the legislative branch as Metro government prepares for its first mayoral transition with the departure of Mayor Jerry Abramson.
In that message to colleagues, Ward-Pugh specifically mentions possible tension with mayor-elect Greg Fischer if King were elected.
“While I believe (Councilman) King could do the job and do it well,” Ward-Pugh writes. “I believe I am better positioned to ensure building a fresh, positive foundation with the mayor-elect and the new administration given that I don’t have a record of criticizing mayor-elect Fischer’s ability to lead, regardless of whether it was during a heated campaign or not. As I told (Councilman) King myself, while I don’t have any belief that he would not work well with Fischer, I do believe there is a dynamic that will be present with him as president that won’t be there with me.”
The vote for council president will be at its first meeting in January.