Independent Withers for House 45

Independent Breck Withers is the best choice in this election for voters in Lexington's 45th District.

Articulate and engaging, Withers is appealing to voters who he says are tired of extreme partisanship and do-nothing sessions like this year's. He wants to seek common ground, provide the district with more responsive representation and reform the legislature, including trimming back what he says are excessive benefits for lawmakers.

Withers would bring useful experience to tackling Kentucky's challenges, especially in education. The son of a Baptist minister, he has worked as a faith-based community activist, including mediating among youth gangs as part of an anti-violence project in Boston, Mass.

He's now operations director of One Horizon, a non-profit think tank in Lexington, and was a founder of the Lexington Leadership Foundation, a faith-based incubator of programs which mentor young people, provide reading tutors, serve the homeless and teach men to be better fathers.

On one point that should be important to Lexington taxpayers, Withers is head and shoulders above the incumbent Rep. Stan Lee. Withers promises to work with Mayor Jim Gray and the Urban County Council to put the city's pension fund for police and firefighters on sound footing.

Lexington's legislators have to take the lead because, under a unique arrangement, the legislature makes the rules and sets the benefits, while Lexington taxpayers must pay for the decisions. Lawmakers, including Lee, have traditionally pleased politically powerful unions by fattening benefits with little regard for the consequences to the city and its taxpayers. That's one of the reasons the pension fund is in crisis.

Lee has not attended a single meeting of the task force that has been working on solutions to the underfunded pensions; he also touts his endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police. That approach might work for the FOP and Lee in the short term but will come back to hurt retirees and the city over time.

A second challenger, Green Party candidate Geoff Young also promises to work with the city on solving the pension crisis. Young is a cerebral advocate for ending mountaintop removal mining, supporting abortion rights, legalizing industrial hemp and campaign finance reform. A leader of Kentucky's fledgling Green Party, he would be the first Green elected to the legislature. But Withers has the advantage over Young in terms of ability to connect with constituents.

Lee represents a big chunk of Lexington but has a narrow set of interests. Best known for strutting his right-wing ideology, Lee has accomplished nothing to speak of in his six terms in the legislature.

District 45 has about the same number of registered Republicans and Democrats (a little over 17,000 each) with almost 3,500 voters not affiliated with either major party.

As an incumbent whose war chest is enriched by special interests, Lee has a huge funding advantage.

Withers is running a shoestring campaign but his independent voice and commitment to finding common ground would better serve the public. Voters should cast their ballots for Withers.

The unendorsed candidate who met the editorial board may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.