Local Judge DeGenaro’s bid for Ohio’s high court looking good

It appears Judge Mary DeGenaro will be a member of the Ohio Supreme Court sooner rather than later.

That’s because current Justice Bill O’Neill, probably best known for his Facebook post about his sexual exploits in a ridiculous attempt to discuss sexual harassment, is to announce today that he is resigning from the court to run for governor.

DeGenaro is the endorsed Republican Party candidate for the seat O’Neill holds. O’Neill cannot run next year for re-election because of the state’s age limit on judges.

It isn’t known yet when O’Neill, a Democrat, will vacate his position on the state’s high court. He’ll announce that today.

But it’s an almost certainty that Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, will appoint DeGenaro to fill the remainder of O’Neill’s term that expires Jan. 1, 2019.

It gives DeGenaro a huge advantage over whoever files as a Democrat for that seat in the November 2018 general election as she’ll be a sitting incumbent.

DeGenaro was first elected to the Youngstown-based 7th District Court of Appeals in 2000, and was re-elected in 2006 and 2012. She opted to not seek re-election to the court of appeals next year to run for the Supreme Court.

Once O’Neill steps down, it will likely put in place a couple of other judicial appointments that will benefit Republicans.

With DeGenaro’s expected appointment to the Supreme Court, her seat on the court of appeals will be open.

Again, Kasich gets to select her successor, and that means Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, who plans to run for the appeals court position next year as a Republican, is the favorite to be appointed to fill the expected vacancy created by DeGenaro.

It also gives Sweeney, a judge since 2004, the advantage of running for the seat next year as an incumbent.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, who’s served in that position for about 21 years, is the expected Democratic candidate for the court of appeals seat in what should be an extremely competitive general election race.

If Sweeney is selected to the court of appeals bench, Kasich once again gets to select her replacement on the county common pleas court bench, and yet again he’ll select a Republican.

As this is all several weeks, and possibly months, away from being settled, I don’t know of any Republican candidates at the moment interested in a potential open common pleas court seat. But I’m certain there will be several who will want to succeed Sweeney.

So back to O’Neill.

He said he’d get out of the gubernatorial race if Richard Cordray, a former state treasurer and attorney general, was a candidate. Cordray announced Tuesday that he was seeking the job, and O’Neill changed his mind.

It should be noted that top Republicans have called for O’Neill to resign from the court as he has announced his candidacy for governor, which they say violates judicial canons. There were reports that if O’Neill didn’t leave the Supreme Court seat he won in the 2012 election that Senate Republicans were going to take the steps necessary to remove him.

Cordray is the most experienced of the six Democrats running next year for governor. The other candidates have struggled to raise money and aren’t well-known statewide. Cordray is the most recognizable Democrat in the race and has run for statewide office five times – winning twice – and has been the candidate Republicans have concentrated their criticism on the most.

But as plenty of recent elections have shown, voters aren’t always looking for the most experienced candidate when it comes to elected office.

That’s not to say that the four other candidates are political neophytes. All have been elected before, but none at the statewide level like Cordray and O’Neill.

The other candidates are state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, ex-U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

While the four have been cordial to each other during three debates, they didn’t give a warm welcome to Cordray when he resigned as the head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to join them.

Pillich, who’s been the most vocal, said: “In the military, I learned that having a clear chain of command for all matters, including succession, is key. A good leader doesn’t abandon her post or leave her people without direction. But that’s exactly what Richard Cordray did when he turned over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Donald Trump.”

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