Fayette County

State senate, local judicial candidates spar at forum

Candidates in the state's 12th Senate District race and two judicial contests squared off Sunday at forums at Lexington's Central Library, where topics ranged from pensions for legislators to how people are treated inside courtrooms.

Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr and Democratic challenger Don Blevins Sr. led off the forums and sparred over the pension issue. Blevins has advocated eliminating taxpayer-funded pensions for legislators.

Blevins, who receives a state pension after retiring in 2008 as Fayette County clerk, a post he held for 27 years, has pledged to turn down a second pension if he's elected in November. Kerr has noted, though, that he wouldn't be eligible to receive a pension from Senate service for five years.

Blevins said he does not think any politician should receive full-time pay for part-time work, and he doesn't think legislators should be paid for participating in special sessions that are held because a state budget could not be approved in a regular session.

Kerr rebutted Blevins' comments, saying the greatest honor and privilege of her life has been being a full-time legislator for part-time pay.

Meanwhile, candidates for district judge in the Third Division — sitting judge Maria Ransdell and opponent Kim Wilkie — critiqued court dockets. Wilkie, a long-time Lexington lawyer, said oral arguments should be the final items on court dockets so others with business in court are not held up.

Ransdell, who's been elected to the Third Division judicial seat three times without opposition, said she would like to see larger dockets broken down into smaller pieces.

Wilkie said one of the differences between the two is judicial philosophy and temperament. He asked the audience to speak with lawyers and court employees before they vote, and while he did not elaborate Sunday, he has said before that Ransdell has not treated people with civility.

Ransdell said Sunday that it takes a certain amount of diplomacy, ability and authority to be a district judge and that she's shown that leadership.

Mike Sanner, a candidate for district judge in the Fifth Division, said he is banking on a variety of life experiences to become elected. He ran track at the University of Kentucky, has done accounting work, and been employed in the horse industry and roofing business before turning to law. Sanner, who now works in the local government's law department, said a judge has to be consistent and follow the law.

"It's a lot easier said than done," he said.

His opponent, Megan Lake Thornton, is depending on her record of more than 13 years as Fifth Division district judge. She said she has tried to be predictable by being specific in how she deals with cases.

Thornton said experience has come into play in many cases she has handled.

"It's a smorgasbord of the law," she said.

The forums will be aired at various times on Channel 20, the library's cable channel.