The legislature's loss was the judiciary's gain as Kathy Stein became Lexington's newest family court judge this month, after 16 years in the General Assembly.
An outspoken defender of women, children, social justice and religious freedom (the way the Founders intended it), Stein did Lexington's 75th House and 13th Senate Districts proud.
When Senate Republicans vindictively tried to oust the Democrat in 2012 by moving her district 70 miles to the northeast, she prevailed in federal court, helping to overturn an unfair redistricting plan and restoring Lexington's representation in the Senate.
Stein was one of the legislature's few reliable defenders of reproductive freedom. She helped pave the way for women in a male-dominated assembly, joining with other women lawmakers from Louisville and Lexington in the late 1990s in an informal coalition facetiously dubbed the "bitch caucus."
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Stein never shied from controversy, and, as a one-time school teacher, didn't mind schooling her fellow lawmakers on the finer points of a debate, even if she got under the skin of some of her more narrow-minded colleagues.
One of her last acts as a legislator was to call for an independent investigation, perhaps conducted by a special prosecutor, into sexual harassment claims by female legislative staffers against a former House member and how their complaints were handled.
Gov. Steve Beshear could not have appointed a more qualified judge. She has served as a public defender and as a prosecutor when she headed the Fayette County Attorney's domestic violence unit. She has had a private law practice and served as chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
The 13th District Senate seat is such prime political real estate that three candidates — Democrat Reginald Thomas, Republican Michael Johnson and Independent Richard Moloney — are competing to succeed Stein in a special election Dec. 10.