The announcement by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner, the newest Democrat in the seven-member court, that she will run for Chief Justice in 2022 seems to me to be good news – bad news for the Ohio Democratic Party.
The ODP has been licking the longest about the possibility of winning a majority on the pitch. The incumbent boss, Republican Maureen O’Connor, cannot run for re-election because of the legal age limit. And that leads to an open fight for their job.
Brunner, a former Ohio State Secretary and appeals court judge, ousted Republican Judith French in last November’s election. Brunner is not lazy when it comes to winning elections; She won the Ohio Supreme Court race at a time when Donald Trump won Ohio’s electoral vote by eight percentage points.
The Ohio Democrats were thrilled with their victory last November – giving them three members of the Ohio Supreme Court, one missing a majority.
Now, there is concern among some Democrats that if Republican Governor Mike DeWine wins, he may appoint a Republican to fill Brunner’s remaining tenure, which expires in January 2027.
But having Brunner as chief judge to set the policy for the court – or, in the eyes of the Democrats, an absolute Democratic majority (more on that in a moment) – would allay the fears of those who oppose the far-right majority in the US both the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate. A democratic majority, the theory goes, could curb a runaway GOP state legislature.
After all, this is the Ohio legislature that has heard testimony from a doctor and a nurse in the past few days on an anti-vaccine bill sponsored by State Representative Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester. This doctor, a Sherri Tenpenny, argued before a house committee that the COVID-19 vaccines allow tracking devices to be activated in people’s minds and create a magnetic response to the extent that keys and utensils stick to people’s bodies.
All total nonsense – although, given the frequency with which I lose my keys, I would be nice to be able to just stick them on my forehead.
Unless they’re worried about people being “magnetized” by COVID-19 vaccines, Republicans in the legislature have plenty of other ideas to keep them busy and do some business for the Ohio Supreme Court in the near future.
These include laws that would restrict postal voting and early voting in Ohio; Cut back on abortion rights; and other Republican legislature bills target rioters, but others say it would be an assault on the rights of the First Amendment to protest the government.
Well, if you’re an Ohioan who doesn’t think the above laws are very good ideas, you might have an interest in someone other than the Republicans who control the Ohio Supreme Court.
This also explains why some Republicans in the Legislature are pushing to amend the law to require party names for Ohio Supreme Court judges to be included on the ballot. Now it’s officially a non-partisan race. Republicans believe the “R” placed next to their candidates will guarantee victory.
I seriously doubt Jennifer Brunner is very impressed with this argument, given what she did to a Republican incumbent last year.
Now for that democratic majority that I mentioned earlier …
The total in Columbus is that two current judges, Patrick DeWine (eldest son of the governor) of Hamilton County and Sharon Kennedy of Butler County, are also considering running for the chief justice seat.
DeWine’s term as one of the six judges ends in December 2022, as does that of another Hamilton County judge, Republican Pat Fischer.
Everything indicates that Fischer wants to stand for re-election. In theory, a Democratic candidate could turn him on his head in the November 2022 elections, but he would undoubtedly be the favorite.
Patrick DeWine would have to forego running for his current seat as judge if he decides to run for president. That would create a wide open seat, and the Ohio Democrats believe they are in a good position to win it. It all depends on whether Patrick DeWine decides to challenge Brunner.
Should Brunner run for chief justice and lose, she will retain her seat on the Ohio Supreme Court until January 2027. The same goes for Kennedy.
A senior Ohio Democrat, who would only speak on the background, said Brunner’s candidacy was something of a roll of the dice, but it’s well worth it.
Brunner to head the court is worth the risk.
Read more about “Speaking Politically” here.