Pretty much any theory you might entertain about what causes voters to vote for or against a judicial candidate is tested by the results of Ohio's Supreme Court race, in which candidates ran head-to-head, without incumbency or partisan designation. Read these descriptions gleaned from Ohio newspapers and try to guess the outcome:
- Justice Yvette McGee Brown, a Democrat, was well-regarded by even the GOP members of the high court, received a rating of “highly recommended” from the Ohio State Bar, and was praised for her performance and temperament by the Supreme Court's Republican Chief Justice.
- Justice Robert Cupp, a Republican, was endorsed by the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Toledo Blade, and Youngstown Vindicator and was rated "highly recommended" by the Ohio State Bar, and "excellent" by the Ohio Women's Bar Association.
- Justice Terrence O'Donnell, a Republican, was rated "recommended" by the Ohio State Bar.
- Challenger Sharon Kennedy, a Republican trial judge, was rated "not recommended" by the Ohio State Bar.
- Challenger William O'Neill, a Democrat and former appellate judge who was working as an a registered nurse nights and weekends in an pediatric emergency room while running for the high court, disavowed campaign contributions and ran a bare-bones campaign. (He refused outside contributions and campaigned on the theme "Money and Judges Don't Mix. Never have and Never Will.") He was rated "qualified" by the Ohio State Bar Association. A late campaign TV ad from the Republican Party attacked him for sympathizing with rapists, based on his part in a unanimous appellate decision that overturned the conviction of an accused rapist. The ad was widely condemned as a cheap shot, including by the state bar.
The winners? O'Donnell, Kennedy, and O'Neill. Surprised? The Akron Beacon Journal reminds us that "O’Neill will join a high court that includes an O’Connor and an O’Donnell."