Richard Moloney, an independent candidate in Tuesday's special election in Lexington for the state Senate, questions the trustworthiness of his Democratic opponent, Reginald Thomas, in a mailer sent to voters this week.
The mailer refers to a Lexington Herald-Leader article published last month about questions that surrounded Thomas' departure from the University of Kentucky, where he was an assistant law professor in 1984. He now is an attorney and professor at Kentucky State University.
Documents obtained by the newspaper under the state Open Records Act revealed that questions were raised at the time about his teaching methods and "lack of quotation marks ... in two articles."
"If we couldn't trust Reggie then, how can we trust him now?" the mailer asks.
On Thursday, Thomas chalked Moloney's accusations up to "politics," saying that "everyone who knows me knows I'm trustworthy."
Moloney's criticism "will not resonate with the voters of the district," Thomas said. "We can let the voters decide if they consider me trustworthy."
The Moloney mailer, along with several sent by the Kentucky Democratic Party that incorrectly label Moloney a Republican, reflect the growing tension in the race to replace Democrat Kathy Stein in the state Senate.
Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, scheduled the special election after he appointed Stein in October to a Fayette Circuit Court judgeship. The 13th District, which covers much of Lexington inside New Circle Road, including downtown and the University of Kentucky, is more than 2-to-1 Democratic in party registration.
Both Moloney, a former member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council and Republican candidate Michael E. Johnson, a minister, were previously Democrats but changed their party registrations to run in the special election.
The three candidates have avoided personal attacks in their public campaign forums, including one Thursday at UK, but not in their advertising.
The Moloney mailer this week contains part of a Nov. 23 Herald-Leader article that quoted Thomas as saying he didn't know why he was denied tenure and faced possible termination from his job as an assistant law professor at UK.
When the newspaper asked Thomas last month if he was ever questioned about his use of quotation marks, he responded: "I'm not going to answer that question."
Moloney's mailer also shows a photo of UK's Memorial Hall and notes that the university is "our city's largest employer and the engine that drives our local economy."
"We need a state senator we can trust to represent UK's best interest," it says.
Moloney said Thursday he sent out the mailer in response to the earlier Thomas' mailers that called him a Republican.
"The Thomas mailer was false. Mine is fact," Moloney said. "He has never specifically answered why he left UK. You would think one would remember that."
The candidates did not have a disparaging word for each other at the two-hour UK forum sponsored by UK's Honors Program and arranged by Buck Ryan, director of the Citizen Kentucky Project at UK's Scripps Howard First Amendment Center. About 60 students attended.
The trio agreed on most issues but split sharply on charter schools.
Charters are schools that receive special permits, or "charters" that allow them to operate outside many rules that public schools must follow. For example, they may offer extended classroom hours or longer school years to help struggling students improve.
Johnson said he supported charter schools, while Thomas said they are a bad idea and would drain money from public schools. Moloney said the state should allow them but provide no public funding to them.
Moloney later said the state should retain oversight of charter schools even if it provided no funding.
All three candidates at the forum said they would concentrate as a state legislator on education and jobs.
Thomas said he has talked to Lexington Mayor Jim Gray about a possible technology park in downtown Lexington and resurrecting a mayor's training center to help people find jobs.
Moloney said Lexington already has tools to help small businesses, but pledged to be sensitive in Frankfort to their concerns.
Johnson said he would like to see more minority-owned businesses in Lexington.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com