COLUMBUS - Even as voters were taking Republicans out of office at the top of the ticket yesterday, they appeared ready to hand the GOP total control of the powerful Ohio Supreme Court.
With half the statewide votes counted, Lima-based appellate Judge Robert Cupp, 55, was leading the race to replace the court's last Democrat, Justice Alice Robie Resnick of Ottawa Hills.
Sitting Justice Terrence O'Donnell, a 60-year-old Rocky River Republican, appeared to be on his way to his first full six-year term.
But the all-important vote from Democrat stronghold Cuyahoga County had yet to report in.
Democrats worked with phone banks and slate cards to try to make sure voters knew Columbus attorney Ben Espy, 63, and Warren-based appellate Judge William O'Neill, 59, were the Democrats in these races, hoping for a trickle-down effect.
"The problem with the judges, and I think this has consistently been a problem for us, is that people cannot make the connection between candidates when there is no party affiliation on the ballot,'' said Susan Gwinn, head of the Athens County Democratic Party and co-chairman of Judge O'Neill's campaign.
Judge Cupp, who highlighted his rival's lack of judicial experience, was leading Mr. Espy with about 54 percent of the votes cast to 41 percent. They served together in the Ohio Senate and were often on opposite sides of major issues.
Justice O'Donnell, 60, had 59 percent of the votes to 41 percent for Judge O'Neill. Judge O'Neill had sworn off campaign contributions as he questioned the propriety of a justice ruling on cases involving parties who gave thousands to his campaign.
Judge Cupp was not ready to declare victory last night, but his election would be the first time in state history that the court will be controlled by one party.
Justice Resnick's departure is expected to result in a 6-1 philosophical split, with Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Bucyrus Republican, the sole remnant of what, as recently as 2002, was a 4-3 majority.
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