By Thomas Suddes, Northeast Ohio Media Group Because information on judgeship candidates can be scarce, and because of Ohio's ballot format, some Ohioans may ignore judgeship elections.
Insiders don't: They gave more than $1.1 million to the 2014 campaign of Republican Justice Judith L. French when she won a full Ohio Supreme Court term. The Columbus Dispatch, citing data from judicial research groups, reported last month that the $1.1 million in donations French's campaign got "ranked second in the nation among the 19 states that elected justices to their highest courts [in 2014]."
That is, Ohio ranked No. 7 in population among the states but ranked No. 2 in how much money was, in effect, bet on the election of a single judge of a state's highest court.
French, a native of Mahoning County's Sebring, now of the Columbus area, fended off her Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell, of Lakewood. She drew 56 percent of the vote to O'Donnell's 44 percent. French had backing from business interests and their lawyers. O'Donnell had backing from unions and lawyers who represent injured Ohioans. O'Donnell's seeking election next year to a Supreme Court seat now held by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, a Toledo Republican who's retiring.
More data on the French-O'Donnell contest are in the study The Dispatch cited, "Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2013-2014." Its authors are associated with the group Justice at Stake; the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.