COVINGTON -- It was billed as the biggest -- and most important -- election in Covington history. And in the end, residents of this Kenton County city voted for change.
Joe Meyer, a 30-year political veteran and Covington native, defeated incumbent Sherry Carran in one of Northern Kentucky's most engaging political battles. He took the race easily with 56 percent of the vote. Carran conceded around 8:30 p.m.
Meyer, a former state senator and secretary of Kentucky's Education and Workforce Development Cabinet under Gov. Steve Beshear, called it a "victory for the people" who have spoken in favor of "major change."
From the beginning, he and his opponent disagreed greatly on the city's present-day standing. His platform painted Covington as unorganized, undisciplined.
"This was a very sizable margin. It wasn't close," Meyer told WCPO. Unofficial results had him at 6,764 votes to Carran's 5,290. "People have not felt their government is responsive. Whether they're citizens or developers, the common complaint is the city is too hard to work with. I want to bring a can-do attitude to city hall, one that says, 'How can we get it done?' instead of looking for reasons not to."
During the year-long campaign, Meyer promised to grow jobs. Currently, Covington's economic development approach is "too controlling," he said. He said he'll fight for basic services -- police and fire protection and garbage pickup -- and for "real accountability, real transparency, real fairness."
"You've got to treat all parts of the city the same," he said. "You go out to South Covington, and they've cut fire protection by 40 percent. They eliminated ambulance protection for 8,000 people. They're taxpayers, too…you have to do the basics for everybody first, and then you can start adding the whipped cream and cherry on top."
Carran called it a "strange election." She pointed to developments like the Hotel Covington -- the 114-room boutique opened in September -- and Braxton Brewery, plus new market rate apartments and restaurants, as signs of progress, major improvements since she was elected the city's first female mayor in 2012. Throughout her campaign, she called Meyer's claims divisive. His focus, she said, was only on the negative.
"I'm disappointed. It's sad. This city, in the past, was notorious for strange politics, nasty politics, backdoor politics, and in the last years, we've been running things more like a business, treating everyone equally," Carran said. "The last few years have been so positive, we're doing things no one ever thought possible. …I hope I'm wrong; I'm hoping the progress continues."