By Anne Halliwell
UK campus and downtown Lexington will soon have the opportunity to elect new leadership.
The three Kentucky senate candidates competing in a special election for the state Senate’s 13th District seat spoke with students in the Cat’s Den on Thursday.
The election, to be held Dec. 10, will fill the vacancy left by state Senator Kathy Stein who left the seat to serve in the Fayette County Circuit Court, according to “Citizen Kentucky” fact sheets.
The winner will hold Stein’s seat until the end of 2016.
Democratic candidate Reginald Thomas, Republican candidate Michael Johnson and Independent candidate Richard Moloney answered questions fielded by students like those in UK Journalism instructor Buck Ryan’s “Citizen Kentucky” class.
Students posed questions ranging from education to the candidates’ stance on non-profit organizations.
“This unique opportunity brought forth the best of us,” Sean Mann, co-moderator wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel. “We thought critically of the pressing issues that concerned us.”
Mann screened the crowd for questions that hadn’t been asked, which called the candidates to speak about a range of topics, though economics issues were broached most frequently, said english freshman and onstage moderator David Cole.
All three candidates are former Democratic party members, two candidates changed their affiliation to join the Senate race, according “Citizen Kentucky” fact sheets.
Thomas, an attorney and professor, called attention to his endorsement by the Kentucky Education Association, his plans to lower UK’s tuition and his plan to focus on public schools.
“We won’t bring jobs to this community… if we don’t have a strong education system,” Thomas said.
Johnson, who encouraged moderators to call him by his nickname, “Big Mike,” spoke about the need for a “community leader” in Lexington who could bridge the gap between political and racial groups to solve problems collaboratively.
Johnson applied the concept that “one size doesn’t fit all” to public school choice, community relationships and disability funding.
Moloney brought up his background in business and government to questions of how to improve Kentucky’s economy through increasing Lexington’s money flow and ensuring Lexington’s budget goes to public ventures.
Moloney also referenced his own disability, deafness, in relation to the job market and public schools’ accommodations for disabled citizens in Lexington.
“As a senator, I want to make sure that no one has to go through what I went through,” Moloney said.
The “Citizen Kentucky” class began planning for the visit in mid-November, Cole said, and pulled together the forum in a matter of weeks.
Broadcast journalism sophomore Angela Reinmund thought the candidates presented interesting and informative opinions that will help her place her own vote.
“It’s enlightening me more about the political parties and where I want to place myself in the spectrum of politics,” she said.
Cole agreed the candidates represented themselves well and the forum succeeded in giving the attendants necessary information.
“The state senate election is important, too,” Cole said. “Whoever wins is going to have a strong influence on what happens to us for the next three years.”