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MANSFIELD - Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken urged local Republicans to support down-ballot candidates during this presidential election year, specifically two Ohio Supreme Court justices who are seeking reelection to the bench.

Timken told attendees of the Richland County Republican Party's monthly luncheon on Monday that the state can't afford to have "activist" judges elected.

"We have a separation of powers that is in our Constitution," Timken said. "We need judges to interpret and apply the law as written and not legislate from the bench."
Timken echoed comments made by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick Fischer, whose term is up in 2022.

"My personal feelings don't matter," Fischer said before Timken spoke. "The difference is, do you want activist judges whose personal experiences define how they make a decision, or do you want judges and justices who look at the law and Constitution as written, and enforce it as written?"

Republican incumbents Judith French and Sharon Kennedy will face Jennifer Brunner and John P. O'Donnell, respectively. None of the four candidates has a primary contender March 17, so the races will likely pick up towards the fall.

"Most 'activist' judges I know call themselves 'conservative,'" said Brunner in a statement. "There is not a Republican or Democratic way to be fair, and every judge should stay in their own lane — I do."

Bill DeMora, campaign manager for O'Donnell, called Timken's comments "long-used buzz words."

Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken urged local Republicans Monday to throw their support behind Republican Ohio Supreme Court candidates. (Photo: Monroe Trombly/News Journal)

"The current two incumbents running have said at rallies that they are a 'back stop' for the governor and legislature, meaning that they are there to protect the policies they pass," DeMora said. "How is that a 'separate branch of government?”'

While state Supreme Court races generally are low-profile, the high court could play an important role in the coming years. The Ohio General Assembly or a state commission will draw a new congressional map in 2022 using rules approved by voters through a May 2018 ballot measure. If the newly drawn map faces a legal challenge, the decision could fall to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state's high court has seven justices. If Democrats win both seats both up for grabs this year, they would have a 4-3 majority on the court.
Democrats won big in 2018 when Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart were elected to the bench.

During her speech, the three-year GOP chair also made reference to a political group backed by Barack Obama and his former attorney general, Eric Holder.

Ohio is among 12 priority states designated by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group that focuses on redistricting reform.

A spokesperson told last month that NDRC is considering getting involved in the Ohio Supreme Court races.

"Eric Holder and Barack Obama have put Justices Sharon Kennedy and Judi French as their targets ... most importantly, they want to control the Ohio Supreme Court," Timken said. "Why? Because they want to use the Ohio Supreme Court to draw legislative lines. They want to create more congressional districts for themselves and more statehouse districts. To me, that is the epitome of anti-democratic processes."

Calling their stances "radical" on major issues such as health care and climate change, Timken criticized Democratic presidential candidates and urged Republicans to remain united, adding she would do everything in her power to make sure President Donald Trump is reelected.

His acquittal is all but certain as the president's impeachment trial comes to a close Wednesday.

"As soon as we forget our mission to fight, we give the Democrats an opportunity to take us back to the job-killing days of high regulations, and higher taxes and more dangerous communities," Timken said.

Marilyn John, chair of Richland County's Republican Party, called attention to how Timken played rugby while in college.

"I may not look like one right now, but I'm very competitive," Timken said. "I like to fight, and I like to win."

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