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Candidates declare for two 2020 Ohio Supreme Court races, with control of the court on the line

Updated Dec 13, 2019;Posted Dec 13, 2019

By Jeremy Pelzer,

Which party has control over the Ohio Supreme Court will be determined by the outcome of two races next year. Democratic ex-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (top right) will face Republican Justice Judith French (top left), while Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy (bottom left) is being challenged by Democratic Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell (bottom right).

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The two races for Ohio Supreme Court in 2020 are all but set: Democrats Jennifer Brunner and John P. O’Donnell will face Republican incumbents Judith French and Sharon Kennedy, respectively.

While state Supreme Court races fly under the radar of many Ohio voters, next year’s contests will be more important than usual, as they will decide whether Republicans or Democrats control a court that will almost certainly have a role in deciding whether congressional and legislative district lines for the next 10 years are improperly gerrymandered or not.

While the Supreme Court has no direct involvement in Ohio’s recently changed redistricting systems for federal and state lawmakers, the new district lines drawn by the legislature or (if the legislature’s gridlocked) a state commission could face legal challenges that may be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court. In the last two years, district maps were ruled unconstitutional by state Supreme Courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Right now, Republicans hold a 5-2 majority on the state’s highest court. But that could flip to a 4-3 Democratic majority with victories by Brunner, a former Ohio secretary of state from Columbus who currently serves as a state appeals court judge, and O’Donnell, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge who has run unsuccessfully for Supreme Court twice before.

Brunner, French, and Kennedy have already submitted paperwork to run. O’Donnell’s campaign intends to file on Monday, according to Bill Demora, a Democratic strategist serving as O’Donnell’s campaign manager.

Another Democrat, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John J. Russo, had also been considering a Supreme Court run, but he has told party officials he has decided against it.
So far, no other candidates have filed to run for either Supreme Court seat, though the candidate deadline isn’t until next Wednesday.

Paid for by Jennifer Brunner Committee
Gretchen Green, Treasurer
5001 Horizons Dr., Ste. 209
Columbus, OH 43220
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