Dan Horn reports:
Butler County Judge Sharon Kennedy helped Republicans continue their dominance of Ohio’s Supreme Court on Tuesday with a win over Yvette McGee Brown, the only incumbent Democrat on the court.
Kennedy also made history as the first Butler County resident elected to the state’s high court in almost 150 years.
Kennedy, who becomes the only Greater Cincinnatian on the court, led Brown 57 percent to 43 percent late Tuesday with most Ohio precincts reporting. In the two other Supreme Court races, incumbent Republican Terrence O’Donnell easily beat Democratic challenger Michael Skindell, while Democratic challenger William O’Neill topped Republican incumbent Robert Cupp.
If those tallies hold, Republicans would retain a 6-1 majority on the seven-member court, with O’Neill replacing Brown as the lone Democrat.
Kennedy, a Butler County domestic relations court judge and a former police officer, faced a bigger challenge than other recent GOP candidates in winning a Supreme Court seat. Brown, who was appointed to an open seat last year, is popular with her Republican colleagues and appeared to be more palatable to business interests than past Democratic candidates, in part because she voted with the court’s majority in 95 percent of her decisions. She also is the first African-American woman ever to serve on the court.
Kennedy also overcame a rare “not recommended” rating from the Ohio State Bar Association and a snub by the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, which did not endorse her despite her background as a police officer.
Despite those obstacles, Kennedy, 49, of Liberty Township, won the race and became the first Butler County resident elected to the court since Josiah Scott in 1866.
The race between Cupp and O’Neill was the most contentious of the Supreme Court races.
O’Neill, who would not accept campaign contributions, repeatedly criticized Cupp and other judicial candidates for taking money from people and groups that could have business before the court.
Republicans responded with a blistering TV ad that accused O’Neill, a former state appeals court judge, of being sympathetic to rapists in one of his rulings. O’Neill, the state bar association and even Cupp denounced the ad. But the state Republican Party, which produced the ad, continued to run it for days.
In the weeks before Election Day, the state bar association also scolded O’Neill for comments on his campaign website criticizing fundraising.
O’Neill becomes the first Democrat elected to the Supreme Court since 2000.
Experience was the big issue in the race between Skindell and O’Donnell.
O’Donnell, a former Common Pleas judge and appeals judge, portrayed Skindell, a state legislator with no judicial experience, as unready for the job. O’Donnell won almost 70 percent of the vote.