RAISING MONEY Democrats trail GOP candidates
\Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the high court.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- If raising dollars is a sign of a political campaign's strength, then Republicans are truly overshadowing Democrats in the races for four Ohio Supreme Court seats in the latest campaign finance reports filed with the state.
In the July monthly report, the most recent reporting period, Republicans captured 83 percent of the nearly $2 million raised for state high court candidates, a Dix Newspapers analysis of campaign contributions shows. The report also contained contributions from April through July.
According to the analysis of data from the Ohio Secretary of State's office, Republican candidates -- Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, Justice Terrence O'Donnell and Judith Lanzinger -- raised $1.6 million of the $1.9 million raised by candidates for the high court.
Democratic Justice candidates C. Ellen Connally, a former Cleveland Municipal Court judge; William O'Neill, an 11th District Court of Appeals judge based in Warren; and Nancy Fuerst, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge; who are running against Moyer, O'Donnell and Lanzinger, respectively; raised just $322,926 over the same time period.
Lanzinger, a Toledo appeals court judge; and Fuerst are facing off for the seat opened by the mandatory retirement of Democratic Justice Francis E. Sweeney.
Republican Justice Paul E. Pfeifer is running unopposed and reported no contributions during that time period.
One good-government group said that given the cost of political advertising, it's not surprising that political candidates are having to resort to raising large amounts of money.
Not about money
But Catherine Turcer, the legislative director for Ohio Citizen Action, said political campaigning shouldn't be about how much money a committee raises.
"Right now, it's a money race," Turcer said. "If we choose to elect judges, all candidates are going to need to get their message out and television costs money ... On the other hand, it shouldn't be the person who has the biggest pile of money becomes the winner."
The campaign for Moyer, who is seeking re-election as the state's top jurist, raised more than $614,000 in his latest report, while Connally, Moyer's Democratic opponent, raised just $32,999, filings show.
Moyer's campaign reported a balance on hand of $957,519, while Connally's campaign reported a balance on hand of $42,543, according to the secretary of state's office.
The campaign for O'Donnell, who was appointed to the high court last year, raised more than $508,000 while his opponent, O'Neill raised just $13,315, according to filings.
O'Donnell's campaign reported a balance on hand of $915,081 while O'Neill reported a balance on hand of $19,647, the secretary of state's office said. O'Donnell and O'Neill are running for the remaining two years of former Justice Deborah Cook who was appointed to the federal bench.
Lanzinger raised $483,000 for her campaign fund while the report filed by Fuerst's campaign with the secretary of state's office said her campaign received $261,455.
The Lanzinger campaign's balance on hand was $765,550, according to reports, while Fuerst's campaign reported a balance on hand of $262,969.
Pfeifer's campaign reported a balance on hand of $98,677.
One political observer says the races for the Ohio Supreme Court could be key ones in this November's general election. Republicans control a 5-2 majority on the high court.
John C. Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said the high court has considered high-profile issues in recent years such as school-funding and issues surrounding workers compensation.
"To many people, who sits on the court makes a big difference," Green said. "At least for the moment, with so many critical issues before the court, every interest group in the state cares about who's elected."
The next campaign contributions report, the August monthly, is expected to be filed with the state in early September, said the secretary of state's office.