Reginald Thomas Rises Above Despite Opposition to Become Senator

Posted January 8, 2014

Story/photo by Patrice K. Muhammad from The KEY Newsjournal

Senator Reginald Thomas received praise from his mother on election night December 10, 2013

Senator Reginald Thomas received praise from his mother on election night December 10, 2013

Local attorney, Kentucky State Professor and Harvard law graduate Reginald Thomas handily defeated two challengers to become the State Senator representing the 13th district covering a huge portion of the city.

Despite negative campaign ads and distractive newspaper reports, Thomas rose above opposition and was victorious winning 53.79% of the votes. There was nearly a 20 point difference between him and the closest competitor Richard Moloney, the Democrat turned Independent candidate endorsed by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Thomas continues the Democratic tradition of the 16th district seat, which has been held most recently by Kathy Stein, Ernesto Scorsone and Sheila Isaac. All of whom have become judges after the Kentucky Senate.

This was the first election since the redrawing of the 13th district boundaries.  It remains comprised of downtown, the UK Campus and most of East Lexington but now includes portions of South Lexington past Man O War. It also remains more than 2 to 1 Democratic.

This is a historic win on many fronts. Thomas becomes Lexington’s first Black Senator, only the third Black person ever elected to the Kentucky State Senate. Thomas is the first Black to win a Senate seat outside Jefferson County and the first to win a district that is not majority Black.

Thomas broke barriers before by becoming the first Black associate law professor at The University of Kentucky in 1980. Thomas, a Harvard trained lawyer, resigned from the university on October 31, 1984 to become general counsel at Kentucky State University, the states only HBCU. He is now a tenured professor there and a practicing business attorney.

A November Lexington Herald-Leader article attempted to raise questions surrounding Thomas’ departure from the University of Kentucky (UK). Moloney quoted that article in a mailer that questioned Thomas’ trustworthiness. The newspaper endorsed Moloney.

Former Second District Councilman Jacques Wigginton and UK Law School grad recalls the mood exhibited toward Blacks during the time that Thomas was at UK. Based on that, Wigginton said that events like Thomas’ departure can’t be isolated, they must be put into perspective of the time.

In a telephone interview, Wigginton also said that the Herald – Leader does not have a consistent rationale for endorsement of candidates but they do consistently run news articles that support their endorsement of a candidate or articles that reflect negatively on the unendorsed candidate.

On election night December 10th, Thomas supporters began gathering at a local eatery about 5pm. There was a sense of anticipation and celebration. The anticipation was heightened because television stations did not provide the usual on screen “ticker tape’’ with updated voting results after the polls closed. Only when the Thomas campaign representative literally ran in to the celebration with the printed results from the County Clerk was it announced that Thomas was victorious. Many people came to the eatery after Thomas’ thank you speech and still were not aware that he had won.

Noticeably absent at the gathering were television cameras and reporters. Well after Thomas’ victory speech, after most well-wishers had left and nearly an hour after it was reported on social media by The Key Newsjournal and Herald-Leader, the first television crew showed up.

In front of a standing room only crowd gathered January 2nd in the Deweese Street Community Room in The Lyric Cultural Arts Center, Senator-Elect Reginald Thomas was sworn in. This time every television station and local paper was present.

Black politicians from around Kentucky drove in for the event. Councilman Stan Holmes from Radcliff, KY and Radcliff’s first Black councilperson Jeannette Stephens drove more than 100 miles for the event. “Well worth the trip to hear him and hear what he’s going to bring to this great state of Kentucky,’’ said Holmes.

Louisville Councilwoman Attica Scott said, “I had to come down, this is historic. The first Black Senator from Lexington, I had to be supportive!’’

The 2014 Kentucky Legislative session begins Tuesday, January 7th and will run through March 31st.

In an election night interview the now Senator said that he will also focus on decreasing the high  rates that are currently used by “pay day lenders’’ and work on creating more opportunities for minority businesses.

Thomas has vowed to continue the fight for the restoration of voting rights for former non-violent offenders that was begun by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw with H.B. 70. Crenshaw has announced that this will be his final session and he will not seek reelection in 2014.

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