When Scott County magistrate and former state lawmaker Charlie Hoffman realized that no other Democrat was going to challenge Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, he threw his hat in the ring.
We applaud Hoffman, who championed some great causes during his 14 years in the state House, for giving voters a choice.
But in a year when Kentucky Democrats are pouring their money and energy into holding the House, Hoffman has raised little money to compete with Thayer’s enormous war chest, so the Democrat is waging a limited campaign.
The Republican-controlled Senate has tailored District 17 to be as noncompetitive as possible (just as the Democrats who control the House have drawn district lines to favor their party), and the Senate will stay in Republican hands.
Under the circumstances, we can’t recommend that District 17 give up a member of Senate leadership by defeating Thayer.
Thayer, who was first elected in a special election in January 2003, was elevated to majority floor leader by his fellow Republicans in December 2012 when Sen. Robert Stivers moved up to Senate president.
Thayer’s leadership post strengthens his ability to look out for the district and also to exert great influence on laws and policies for the whole state.
Unfortunately, he’s thrown his power into blocking some changes that would be good for Kentucky, such as a statewide smoke-free law and restoring the voting rights of felons who have paid their debts to society. Thayer did budge this year on a law allowing many Kentuckians to expunge felony records that have prevented them from getting jobs, a reform sought by a Kentucky business community in need of workers, and a compromise expungement bill became law.
On the upside, Thayer in 2013 worked with Democrats to strengthen oversight of Kentucky’s 1,200 special taxing districts. But this year he helped kill Rep. Susan Westrom’s bill bringing greater oversight and transparency to the state’s 15 area development districts that administer more than $175 million, almost entirely public funds.
He’s open to reforming Kentucky’s tax code, although his desire to shift from income to consumption taxes would impose an unfair burden on low-income Kentuckians. And earlier this year he said he will look for possible solutions to stop land developers and owners of large suburban estates from receiving a tax break meant for saving productive farmland. The issue arose in response to a Herald-Leader investigation that found many examples of the farmland tax break benefiting owners of estate-style homes and land in line for development.
Also, Thayer has long favored more timely, up-to-date and frequent reporting of campaign contributions in state and local races and requiring all candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically. Anyone who wants transparency in Kentucky elections should support this change, and Thayer should finally get it done.
The unendorsed candidate in this race may submit a 250-word response by noon Tuesday.