Justice Kennedy said she was ‘surprised’ by last year’s Ohio Supreme Court results


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon L. Kennedy said she was surprised by last November’s results for the state’s top court that had two Democrats win despite that political party getting swept in the Ohio executive branch races.

Justice Kennedy, a Republican up for re-election next year, told The Vindicator on Tuesday she’s not taking anything for granted and is already actively campaigning for her seat.

She was in Youngstown to teach a continuing legal education class at the Mahoning County Bar Association. The justice was also in Youngstown on April 30 for the county Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner.

Justice Kennedy said so far this year she’s visited close to 60 of the state’s 88 counties. She plans to visit them all this year and also next year.

She said she went to all of them in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Justice Kennedy was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2012 for an unexpired term, and in 2014 she won a full six-year term.

During her time on the court, Republicans have been in the majority, mostly 6-1.

Since January, however, that majority was reduced to 5-2 after Democrats Michael P. Donnelly and Melody J. Stewart won elections over Republicans. Judicial candidates in Ohio run in political partisan primaries and then run without party labels in the general election.

The Democratic judicial victories last November came as Republicans were elected to every statewide executive-branch position on the ballot. Also, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, was re-elected to a third six-year term in November.

Also seeking re-election next year is Justice Judith French. The Ohio Republican Party endorsed her and Justice Kennedy for re-election Friday.

On the Democratic side, Judge John P. O’Donnell of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court – who unsuccessfully ran for the Supreme Court in 2014, losing to Justice French, and in 2016 – plans to run again in 2020. He hasn’t said which incumbent he would challenge. No other Democrat has announced plans to run for the high court.

“The two Supreme Court seats are high priorities to us, and we’re talking to potential candidates,” said Kirstin Alvanitakis, Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman.

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