Chris Thieneman in a YouTube video accusing Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, LMPD Chief Steve Conrad and Mayor Greg Fischer of a cover-up in the Youth Explorer scandal | Screenshot

Chris Thieneman is currently putting significant energy behind opposing the reelection on Tuesday of Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell — who he contends has been covering up the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Youth Explorer Scandal — paying for advertisements like a large mobile billboard on a truck that sometimes follows O’Connell around the city.

However, if the county attorney is able to beat Councilman Brent Ackerson in the Democratic primary on Tuesday and Mayor Greg Fischer does not fire LMPD Chief Steve Conrad — two leaders that he also accuses of covering up the sexual abuse scandal — Thieneman told Insider Louisville that he will likely complete the necessary paperwork that he has already started to run against Fischer as an independent candidate in the mayoral general election this fall.

Thieneman — who starred as a football player at the University of Louisville before playing professionally — ran unsuccessfully for Congress, mayor and the state Senate as a Republican in 2008, 2010 and 2012, only winning his party’s primary in the latter race.

If he does run for mayor, the mostly conservative Thieneman may end up pulling Republican or conservative South End Democratic votes away from Councilwoman Angela Leet — the presumptive Republican mayoral nominee to run this fall against the presumptive Democratic nominee Fischer — making her underdog bid to oust the two-term incumbent mayor even more difficult.

However, Thieneman said he isn’t dissuaded from running for mayor by such a hypothetical argument, arguing that Leet hasn’t been nearly strong enough on what he calls a shameful cover-up by the most powerful officials in the city.

According to records from the Jefferson County Clerk’s office obtained by Insider through an open records request, Thieneman filed a “statement-of-candidacy” form on April 1 — the last day an independent candidate can file the document — stating his desire to run as an independent for mayor.

This move by Thieneman was somewhat surprising, as he told Insider last year that he would not be running for mayor, instead indicating his full support for Leet.

Asked by Insider about filing this form on Monday, Thieneman said: “I really was keeping it low-key as much as I could. We had a deadline and I had to sign it by April 1. So I waited until the last-minute.”

In order to be on the ballot this November as an independent candidate for mayor, Thieneman would only have to collect two signatures of independent voters in the county on a petition that is filed by Aug. 14, according to the spokesmen of both the Kentucky Secretary of State and Jefferson County Clerk.

Thieneman said that “his full passion” for the time being is the defeat of O’Connell in Tuesday’s primary and helping the victims who were abused, in addition to putting pressure on Fischer to fire Conrad. He added that if he succeeds in removing those two officials, “then I probably don’t run for office.”

However, if O’Connell wins and Conrad stays in his position, “then I’m going to put all of my effort into getting some justice and trying to get this city on the right path with leadership.”

And if he does run, he’s not worried about hurting the Republican nominee’s chances of victory, asserting that Leet has not been strong enough.

“My view on the Republican nominee — assuming that she comes out of it — whoever it is is going to need to be a heck of a lot tougher than they are right now,” said Thieneman.

Thieneman said that he would take such a run seriously, as he’s “a no nonsense, by-the-book guy,” even though “I can be fun — you know, I’m a Gemini.”

Thieneman’s public feud with O’Connell actually waded into the court system last week, as the critic sued the county attorney for defamation after O’Connell allegedly called him “a sexual predator” in a Law Day event on May 1 just outside the courthouse. Saying that Thieneman was a danger to women, O’Connell referred to his September 2013 arrest, when he was accused of trying to strangle his ex-girlfriend.

Thieneman was acquitted of misdemeanor assault three years later, but fined $500 on a misdemeanor charge of wanton endangerment stemming from the incident.

O’Connell told the Courier Journal in a statement last week that he would wear Thieneman’s lawsuit “as a badge of honor.”

Thieneman’s attacks on O’Connell related to the Youth Explorer scandal often mirror that of Ackerson’s, who has hammered the county attorney in public forums and web ads about his statement that the plaintiffs in the case should be publicly identified, just like the former officers who are defendants. O’Connell later said that he misspoke.

Thieneman told Insider on Monday afternoon that the truck with his mobile billboard taunting O’Connell had just been towed from the parking lot of the Jefferson County Public Schools headquarters. He implied that O’Connell was behind the action — which he said cost him $325 — saying “Boss Hog got me.”

JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin told Insider that “JCPS called for it to be towed because it was parked illegally.”

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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