Politics & Government

Campaign spending, poll separate experienced Fayette judge candidates Reynolds, Goodman

Judge John E. Reynolds and Judge Julie Muth Goodman
Judge John E. Reynolds and Judge Julie Muth Goodman

Two experienced judges are running for the bench in Lexington, spending a total of about $170,000 on their fall campaigns, according to the latest available reports.

Fayette District Court Judge Julie Muth Goodman was the top vote-getter in the May primary election for circuit court judge from the fourth division. She’s looking to unseat Judge John Reynolds, who was appointed in 2019 to fill the unexpired term of Pamela Goodwine after she was elected a year ago to the state appeals court. Goodman collected more than double the amount of primary votes that Reynolds did in May.

Commercials from both judges were in rotation on local stations over the weekend leading up to Tuesday’s election. For the general election, Reynolds had raised about $102,000, including a personal contribution, and spent roughly $92,000, according to Kentucky Registry of Election Finance records that candidates have to file 15 days prior to the vote. Goodman had raised about $75,000 and spent $70,000.

Reynolds loaned his campaign a total of $40,000 for the general election, according to finance records.

On his campaign Facebook page over the weekend, Reynolds cited a 2016 Kentucky Bar Association judicial poll in which Goodman was one of four Lexington judges that were rated as “poor.” About 430 lawyers in total responded to the poll, but smaller numbers rated the individual judges as excellent, good, favorable or poor based on legal ability; case management; integrity and impartiality; professionalism and demeanor; and diligence.

“Fayette County Bar Association conducted a BLIND poll and its telling. Lexington deserves to have better Judges!,” the Reynolds post said.

In the poll, 21 percent of respondents labeled Goodman as poor. But 49 percent rated her as excellent and 18 percent rated her as good.

In her Facebook response, Goodman noted the more favorable numbers that Reynolds didn’t include. “This is a Judicial Race where Ethics and Integrity are crucial, therefore I will continue to run my race based only on my experience and my eleven years of Judicial service,” she said.

Reynolds has lived in Lexington since graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1997. He worked as an attorney for a horse farm for about a year out of law school before working as a solo private attorney, during which he tried personal injury, criminal and civil cases. He said his goal was always to work cases that kept him in the courthouse and in front of juries.

In early 2018, Reynolds was appointed to fill the term of Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael Jr. who retired. But Reynolds lost the seat to Judge Lucy VanMeter last November.

In his campaigns, Reynolds has emphasized his bench experience with criminal and civil law.

Goodman, a Lexington native, has been a district court judge for more than a decade. She too attended UK law school. She interned and later worked at the Kentucky Office of Special Prosecutions, which is a unit that steps in when a local commonwealth’s attorney disqualifies from a case. There, she worked under former Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson. Larson endorsed her in the fall campaign.

As a special prosecutor for four years, Goodman prosecuted three capital murder cases, before going into private practice for an insurance firm. She later worked for Larson again as an assistant prosecutor.

Circuit court judges serve eight-year terms while district court judges serve four-year terms. The winner of the Goodman-Reynolds race will serve until the expiration in 2022 of former Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine’s term. In 2014, Goodwine was last elected to that bench before moving on four years later to the appeals court.

Circuit court judges are paid $127,733 a year in Fayette County.