COLUMBUS, Ohio — The race to claim the chief justice seat on the Ohio Supreme Court is tight, according to a Spectrum News/Siena College Poll. The Democratic and Republican candidates are holding steady at 40% of voter support each.
According to the poll, voters between the ages of 18 and 64 have a more vested interest in Justice Jennifer Brunner. Voters age 65 and up lean heavily toward Justice Sharon Kennedy.
The poll was conducted in mid-September and has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points, including the design effects resulting from weighting.
Justice Sharon Kennedy and Justice Jennifer Brunner are vying for the seat this midterm election. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will vacate the seat after serving two decades in the court. O'Connor is retiring because of a constitutionally mandated age limit for judicial candidates.
Right now, the Ohio Supreme Court is a Republican majority. Democrats are hoping the court will swing in the other direction, now that party affiliation will be on the ballot for the first time.
Both sides understand the seat is critical. That’s because it carries with it a lot of influence and power for constitutional questions, criminal appeals involving the death penalty, redistricting, and women’s health.
“In addition to just being the top member of the court also sets the standards for a number of different judicial rules and processes across the state,” said Bob Paduchik, Ohio Republican Party Chair.
Liz Walters, Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, said this includes setting the court agenda and assigning visiting judges. If the court remains a majority Republican, Walters is concerned as the court could play a role in future legislative matters.
This includes legislation that “Will ban birth control; that will ban IVF in Ohio. Like this is a really profound decision for women about their health care, their life, their choices, their families," Walters said.
More than 70% of voters surveyed indicated they had not formed an opinion yet on whether they’ll stick with either candidate. Paduchik believes it’s still too early to tell which way the race will go. However, he is confident Kennedy can win the race, just as Walters is confident in Brunner.