Reginald Thomas for House 88

Reginald Thomas addressed the League of Women Voters at the Lexington Public Library on Saturday, October 6, 2012 . Photo by Mark Ashley
Reginald Thomas addressed the League of Women Voters at the Lexington Public Library on Saturday, October 6, 2012 . Photo by Mark Ashley Herald-Leader

Voters in Lexington's District 88 have a choice between two well-qualified and knowledgeable candidates to fill the House seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Farmer.

Democrat Reginald Thomas has the edge because of his long and varied civic involvement and eagerness to work directly on job creation in Lexington.

A Harvard-educated attorney and associate professor at Kentucky State University, Thomas has been tapped to guide numerous local institutions from Actors Guild to Commerce Lexington. He's been a PTA president and served on the board of Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

Thomas' community service gives him insights and connections across the political spectrum that will serve his constituents well and make him more effective in Frankfort.

Republican Robert Benvenuti III also brings useful insights to the race gleaned during his three years as Inspector General in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Benvenuti made a name for himself as a watchdog, overseeing investigations that exposed wrongdoing at Oakwood, a Somerset institution for disabled adults, and within the child protection ranks.

He's a staunch advocate for more transparency in the state's handling of child abuse and neglect cases.

Benvenuti left the Fletcher administration to open a law firm specializing in health care.

With a few exceptions, Thomas and Benvenuti hew to classic party lines.

Thomas is refreshingly candid about his support for tax reform that will raise more revenue to invest in Kentucky, especially in education.

Benvenuti wants to cut state spending, enact a right-to-work law and limit damages in lawsuits.

Thomas stands up for labor's right to organize and opposes tort reform that he says would slam the courthouse door on those who have been harmed by malpractice.

On an issue of particular concern to Lexington taxpayers — the legislature's control of the city's underfunded police and fire pensions — Thomas expresses greater willingness to work with Mayor Jim Gray and the council on solutions.

Benvenuti says Lexington government has not demonstrated an ability to manage the fund, though he says the police and fire disability policy clearly needs to change.

Benvenuti talks in global terms about growing the economic pie by lowering the tax burden.

Thomas promises to personally participate in efforts to recruit and create jobs in Lexington and to serve as a bridge between local and state economic development efforts.

Thomas' eagerness to serve — backed by his already impressive record of service — makes him the better choice. Voters should send Thomas to the legislature.

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