COLUMBUS -- Faced with a vacancy on the ballot, Ohio Democrats have pinned their hopes for picking up a second seat on Ohio's highest court on a state senator from Lakewood.
Sen. Mike Skindell -- a former state representative, Lakewood city councilman, and Ohio assistant attorney general--was picked by the party's state central and executive committees Tuesday night to run against incumbent Supreme Court Justice Terrence O'Donnell, a Rocky River Republican.
"With my roots -- having come up in a working-class family, a family with strong labor ties, and my voice for the people in the Ohio legislature -- I will provide a voice for the people on the Supreme Court," Mr. Skindell said.
The court is currently dominated 6-1 by Republicans. The sole Democrat, Justice Yvette McGee Brown, is also asking voters this fall to ratify her appointment to a court vacancy by then-Gov. Ted Strickland at the start of 2011.
Office: State senator (2011-present)
Public service: State representative (2003-2010), Lakewood City Council (1998-2002), assistant attorney general
Education: Law degree (1987), Cleveland Marshall College of Law; bachelor’s in business and political science, Walsh College, Canton (1983)
The Democratic slot on the ballot for Justice O'Donnell's seat on the bench was briefly filled by Canfield attorney Robert W. Price, who quietly removed his name from the ballot several weeks ago.
Mr. Skindell, a personal injury civil attorney, said his election would help to bring some balance to the court.
"Partisan balance means philosophical balance," Mr. Skindell said. "Of the seven members, six have one philosophical tilt. There should be balance so that everybody has access to justice."
Democrats have not won a Supreme Court election in Ohio since 2000, when Justice Alice Robie Resnick of Ottawa Hills won re-election against Cleveland appellate Judge O'Donnell.
Since his appointment to the bench by then-Gov. Bob Taft in 2003, Justice O'Donnell has proven to be a formidable candidate, twice winning elections to stay on the bench.
The Ohio State Bar Association rated him "recommended" despite his years on the Supreme Court and district appellate benches. That's lower than the "highly recommended" ratings given to Justice Brown and Republican Justice Robert Cupp, who have less judicial experience and are also on the ballot this year.
The senator is running at the midpoint of a four-year term in the chamber. He considered running for appellate court in Cleveland last year but said he opted not to in order to concentrate on a full plate of issues before the legislature at the time.
Now that lawmakers have gone home for the summer and with a spot on the ballot available, he said he felt the time was right to jump into the race. As of mid-April, Justice O'Donnell had $120,025 in his campaign coffers compared to just under $5,000 for Mr. Skindell's Senate campaign committee.
"As with any political campaign, it's up to the candidate to develop his own campaign," Mr. Skindell said. "The party is happy to see me. I have experience putting campaigns together. I helped to manage several re-election campaigns for [U.S. Rep.] Dennis Kucinich, and I've run my own campaigns for city council, state representative, and state Senate."
In the House and Senate, Mr. Skindell has often been the go-to guy for Democrats on budget and other issues. Most recently, he was a plaintiff in the unsuccessful lawsuit challenging Gov. John Kasich's creation of a private, nonprofit economic development entity, and he has criticized Mr. Kasich's administration for not doing more to implement the insurance market pools required under President Obama's challenged health-care law.
"Trial lawyer Mike Skindell's left-wing ideology makes him unfit for the state's highest court," said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett. "After trying for seven months, the Democrats unearthed a candidate with no judicial experience whatsoever, who stands in marked contrast to Justice O'Donnell's 30-year judicial career of distinction and outstanding record on the bench."
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.