Will party labels for the Supreme Court sway voters?

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. tsuddes@gmail.com

Polls and campaign finance reports suggest former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, the Democrat challenging Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s re-election, is fighting an uphill battle, with the November election just 51 days away.

But two series of campaigns appear neck and neck. One is the statewide competition between Democratic US Representative Tim Ryan and Republican JD (James David) Vance for one of Ohio’s US Senate seats.

Also neck and neck — according to a USA TODAY Network Ohio/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday by the Dispatch — there are races for three seats on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Leading the High Court contests is the race between Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner and Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy to succeed retired Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. Adjusting for the usual ifs, ands and buts, the poll found that 42.2% of likely voters preferred Kennedy, while 41.8% preferred Brunner, a gap of just 0.4%.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner are neck and neck for the position of Chief Justice.

In the other two Supreme Court races, Republican Justice R. Patrick DeWine (Mike DeWine’s son) edged out his opponent, Democratic Justice Marilyn Zayas of the Ohio Court of Appeals (1st District) of Cincinnati by just 2.4 percentage points, the Dispatch reported. .

And Republican Judge Patrick Fischer edged his challenger, Democratic Judge Terri Jamison of the Columbus Court of Appeals (10th District) by just 1.6 percentage points.

After:Tim Ryan and JD Vance neck and neck in new Ohio Senate poll

Will the tags help Republicans in the state high court?

That suggests Democrats are competitively positioned in all three Supreme Court races. But there are caveats:

First, until early voting began on October 13, voters did not actually see the ballot. And for the first time in more than 110 years, party tags will accompany the names of nominees for the Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Court of Appeals. In other words, the ballot will tell voters about the political leanings of the judicial candidates.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick DeWine, left, and Marilyn Zayas, right.

After:Up for grabs: Poll shows tight races for 3 Ohio Supreme Court seats

No voter in Ohio has seen a judicial ballot quite like this year’s, and whether that party label favors Republicans — as the GOP-led General Assembly hopes — is an open question. .

Thomas Suddes

Voters should remember why the high court is so high

Second, corporate lobbies will pour an avalanche of money into the campaigns of Republican Justices Kennedy, DeWine and Fischer.

These lobbies know something grassroots voters sometimes forget: The Supreme Court may be all that stands between Ohio households and utility rates that go over budget, and between injured Ohioans and utility companies. insurance that deny claims.

After:Thomas Suddes: Redistricting decisions put Ohio Supreme Court races front and center

It’s no wonder that in June a coalition of Ohio’s major business lobbies announced they would leave no stone unturned to elect Kennedy’s Chief Justice and re-elect DeWine and Fischer:

Political Action Committees (PACs) of the Ohio National Federation of Independent Business; the Ohio Business Roundtable; the Ohio Chamber of Commerce; the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick F. Fischer, left, and Terri Jamison, right.

Among the leaders of these groups are former US Representatives Patrick Tiberi (Business Roundtable) and Steve Stivers (Ohio Chamber), both Republicans from suburban Columbus.

Previously, as members of the General Assembly, each had sponsored anti-plaintiff “tort reform” measures that attempted to restrict the right of Ohioans to seek damages for injuries.

After:Thomas Suddes: Will Whaley beat DeWine, can Vance hit Ryan and what about abortion?

One was House Bill 350 of 1996 (Tiberi), which was then the government. George V. Voinovich signed, but which the Ohio Supreme Court struck down “in toto” as unconstitutional in a 1999 bipartisan decision. The other measure, Senate Bill 80 of 2004 (Stivers), has was signed by the Governor at the time. Bob Taft. The Stivers bill recently made headlines when its provisions (upheld by the state Supreme Court) limited the damages a jury awarded to a young woman who, at age 15, died. is forced to perform oral and vaginal intercourse by a church pastor.

The fuss around the governorship and Senate seat may obscure the significance to Ohioans of the Brunner-Kennedy, DeWine-Zayas and Fischer-Jamison contests. That would be a mistake, because the High Court arbitrates so many facets of the lives of voters, policyholders, and consumers — and some days the judges are all that stands between an out-of-control legislature and the Ohio Constitution.

Mike DeWine gets a high rating

On the management front, there’s good news for Mike DeWine’s administration.

Fitch Ratings, one of the three major debt rating agencies, has upgraded Ohio’s “Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR)” to AAA from AA+…the highest rating (such}… by one of the three major rating agencies since 1979″ – that is, in 43 years, which reduces government borrowing costs and is a key indicator of strong work from DeWine and the State Budget Office.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. tsuddes@gmail.com

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