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Published: Saturday, 6/15/2002

Money chase punctuates Ohio high court race

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - If campaign funds were votes, Ohio Supreme Court candidate Tim Black would be the only Democrat still in the race for statewide office in November.

The Hamilton County Municipal Court judge, a former fund-raiser for a private college-preparatory school where he once taught, had $638,326 in the bank as of June 7. He raised nearly one-third of that in the last month and a half.

His Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor, raised $328,607 during the period, but still trailed her opponent with $403,535 in cash on hand.

“She's closing the gap,” said Ms. O'Connor's press spokesman, Mark Weaver. “She out-raised him by 50 percent for the period. Obviously, this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

They are vying for the seat to be vacated by Republican Justice Andrew Douglas, a Toledo Republican barred from seeking a fourth six-year term because of his age.

Yesterday marked the deadline for statewide candidates to file campaign finance reports covering April 18 through June 7, providing clues as to where special interests are placing their bets.

Judge Black has proven to be an anomaly among Democratic candidates, who so far have either failed to gain traction or started the fund-raising game late, already well behind firmly entrenched Republican officeholders.

“A key component is that Judge Black has prior statewide ballot exposure,” said his campaign spokeswoman, Kimberly Wood. “Few on the ballot have that kind of exposure. The more important reason is that there are tons of people who know how important this race is and are showing it through generous gifts.”

Mr. Weaver estimated that as much as $3 million could be spent by the two candidates on this race. The $1 million already raised roughly doubles what has been raised for the other Supreme Court seat on the ballot in November, the one held by Republican Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.

Justice Stratton, seeking a second term, had $324,718 in the bank, compared to $246,030 for her Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Janet Burnside.

If the 2000 contest over the seat of Justice Alice Robie Resnick, an Ottawa Hills Democrat, is any barometer, spending by the candidates could again be dwarfed by spending by business, insurance companies, labor, trial lawyers, and teachers.

At stake is the current 4-3 majority on the court that has struck down repeated attempts by the General Assembly to rein in litigation jury awards against business as well as the state's system of funding education. Justice Douglas usually has been part of that majority.

Mary Boyle, Democratic candidate for treasurer, had a competitive drive against incumbent Republican Joe Deters, raising $125,915 to his $137,119. Mr. Deters has been raising money for about two years and largely depleted his coffers by buying more than $1.2 million in advertising.



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