Give Judge Wilkie another term

Judge Kim Wilkie
Judge Kim Wilkie

Fayette District Judge Kim Wilkie is highly regarded by nine out of 10 lawyers who appear before him, receiving high marks for his professionalism and integrity in a 2016 Fayette County Bar Association poll. He also has shown initiative by starting a mental-health court three years ago — one of four in the state.

Wilkie, who practiced insurance law and criminal defense, earned our strong support in 2010 when he defeated a sitting judge. For reelection, we offer only a tepid endorsement.

That’s because of his shady move to have his son, Chris, file in his race right before the primary filing deadline. The judge said he was considering retirement and wanted someone he trusted to follow him in the seat. But a judgeship is not a family inheritance.

The elder Wilkie had drawn no challenger — long-time incumbents rarely do — when his son filed for the post about an hour before the deadline. The plan, we can assume, was for the father to drop out, leaving his son an uncontested judgeship and voters no choice.

The plan failed when Lindsay Hughes Thurston, senior adviser to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, got word about the late filing and withdrew from another judicial race to run for what seemed to be an open seat. The son later withdrew. Meanwhile, there are reasonable questions about whether Thurston, a top official in the agency that oversees elections, misused her position in making the last-minute switch.

So, there’s a cloud over this race, even though the candidates are solid.

Thurston is a former assistant Fayette County attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted a lot of child exploitation cases. From 2012 to early this year, she operated as chief of staff of the secretary of state’s office. Those administrative skills, along with her legal experience and self-confidence, make her capable of filling a district court seat.

Wilkie insists that he wants a final term and is committed to securing the future of the mental-health court, which offers a two-year diversion program focused on treatment and recovery instead of jail time.

His misguided political maneuvering aside, voters should give him that chance.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Monday.