Ohio's Supreme Court Races Set Stage for Partisan Power Shift

Written by Henrik Rothen

Mar.19 - 2024 11:41 AM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Ohio's Supreme Court Races Set Stage for Partisan Power Shift.

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The Democratic primary for a crucial seat on the Ohio Supreme Court, taking place this Tuesday, marks the beginning of an intense campaign season, with the balance of power on the court at stake this fall. The court, which currently leans towards a 4-3 Republican majority, plays a pivotal role in the interpretation of a state constitutional amendment on abortion rights passed last year by a significant margin.

According to Toronto Star, Ohio stands among the 33 states holding supreme court elections this year, presenting a rare opportunity for voters to potentially alter the court's partisan alignment. For Democrats to gain control, they must win all three seats up for grabs in November, a challenge given the Republican dominance of the court since 1986 and the state's recent rightward political shift.

However, Democrats are buoyed by the support for reproductive rights in last fall's vote and aim to highlight the court's critical role in shaping the amendment's implementation.

They view the upcoming elections as a chance to weaken the Republican stronghold on Ohio's government.

The primary's spotlight is on the contest between Lisa Forbes and Terri Jamison, both appellate judges, vying for the Democratic nomination. The winner will challenge Republican Dan Hawkins in November for the open seat. Hawkins, with a background in the Franklin County prosecutor’s office and municipal court, is now a judge of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Forbes, backed by the Ohio Democratic Party, has emphasized her commitment to upholding democracy and constitutional rights, free from political pressure. Jamison, aiming to become the third Black woman on the Ohio Supreme Court, advocates for a court accessible to all, not just the elite, and capable of providing checks and balances.

The campaigns are likely to address not only abortion but also redistricting, public education, health care, environmental issues, and criminal justice reform.

This election cycle is particularly notable as Joe Deters, appointed to the court in 2022, opts to challenge incumbent Democrat Melody Stewart for a longer term, setting up a high-profile race. Meanwhile, Democratic Justice Michael Donnelly will face Republican Megan Shanahan, highlighting the competitive nature of these judicial contests.

As Ohioans prepare to vote, the outcome of these races could significantly impact the state's legal landscape, touching on vital issues from abortion rights to redistricting and beyond.

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