When Frankfort City Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge, during a debate over bicycle trails last month, publicly ridiculed Mayor Bill May as an alleged flip-flopper, observers were too stunned to realize what they’d just witnessed: the unofficial start of the 2020 mayoral race.

Waldridge, a rookie, history-making commissioner who garnered the most votes citywide in the November election, hasn’t made any public declarations about a mayoral run, but she’s talking and acting like a commissioner with higher ambition.

If she doesn’t run herself, Waldridge’s unusually aggressive attack on a very recent ally – the mayor who served up what was arguably the defining issue in the 2018 city commission election – still signaled a fissure in May’s political base heading into 2020. What many of us thought was a slight crack shows signs of being a major rupture.

May’s informal alliance with Waldridge and sidekick Eric Whisman seemed solid and potent coming out of the November election. May could reasonably take some credit for Waldridge’s and Whisman’s fast political ascent. It was the mayor’s battle with former Commissioner Robert Roach for control of the Frankfort Plant Board that inspired a new political action committee, Integrity for Frankfort, with the singular mission of defeating Roach and the two commissioners (Scott Tippett and Lynn Bowers) who sided with him in the FPB flap.

PAC organizers paid some lip service to other issues, such as incumbents’ weak defense of the Frankfort Convention Center in the face of state-ordered demolition, but the belief here is that Integrity for Frankfort would never have formed except for the Roach-led attempt to oust May appointees Anna Marie Pavlik Rosen and Walt Baldwin from the Plant Board. The PAC’s money was instrumental in the election of Waldridge and Whisman, who promptly gave May the two votes he needed to give Rosen and Baldwin an ally and working majority on the Plant Board.

That was January. This is June. And all signs point to formidable 2020 challenges to May from opposite ends of the spectrum.  

The business community is mobilizing to recruit and support a pro-growth candidate. On the left, Waldridge’s actions suggest a challenge to May’s support among progressives, who were critical to the mayor’s narrow 2016 defeat of John Sower, rewarding the mayor for his tiebreaking vote in favor of the Fairness Ordinance, prohibiting businesses from discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation.

Check out this page early next week for a guest column (received Thursday night) that might blow the lid off the 2020 mayoral race – if Waldridge didn’t already lift it last month.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The State Journal. His email address is steve.stewart@state-journal.com.

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