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Local officials discuss Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation

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    Retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, right, administers the Judicial Oath to Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the Justices' Conference Room of the Supreme Court Building. Ashley Kavanaugh holds the Bible. At left are their daughters, Margaret, background, and Liza.

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    Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.

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    Mark Wagoner, Jr.

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    Kurt Young

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While comments from officeholders about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court fell largely along party lines, how and whether the confirmation process will affect next month’s election remains a matter of debate for party leaders in northwest Ohio.

“It’s obviously been a challenging couple of weeks for the country, but it’s nice to see the due process won out,” Mark Wagoner, Jr., chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said. Some pundits earlier wrote of an “enthusiasm gap” among Republican voters, and there may have been, Mr. Wagoner said.

No longer.

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Mark Wagoner, Jr.

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“We saw a lot of enthusiasm over the last couple weeks at Lucas County Republican headquarters,” Mr. Wagoner said. Some have dropped by to pick up yard signs. Others offered to volunteer “to find ways to make a difference in the midterm elections.

“We think what happened with Justice Kavanaugh motivated a lot of Republicans, re-emphasizing the importance of the midterm elections,” Mr. Wagoner said.

Walking door to door, Jonathan Jakubowski, chairman of the Wood County Republican Party, has heard about two matters motivating voters — opposition to Issue 1, the ballot proposal to make misdemeanors of low-level, nonviolent drug felonies, and the confirmation process of Justice Kavanaugh.

“A lot of people believe he was wrongfully treated,” Mr. Jakubowski said. “A lot of people view this as a catalyzing event.

“People want to participate in this process,” he said. “From what I see on the street, from what I’m hearing, there’s a lot of momentum for the Republican ticket.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Saturday predicted that voters will reward Republicans in the midterm election. The struggle to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, in his words, “turned our base on fire.”

That troubles Kurt Young, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party and a lawyer who is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar.

“This is the one branch that is supposed to be insulated from passion and prejudice, and now we’ve made it about that,” Mr. Young said, adding a wish that the election be “more about who’s on the ballot this year. We’re presenting voters with great candidates and issues. We want to make it about that, not anger and division.”

The confirmation “kind of cheapened the court,” because, he said, the investigation that followed sexual misconduct allegations against Justice Kavanaugh was not complete.

“It’s kind of an asterisk by the man’s name. If the charges are false, he deserves to have the standing of a justice,” Mr. Young said.

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Kurt Young

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He too is finding enthusiasm among his party.

“We’ve got a lot of people who are angry and fired up and heading out, doing work,” said Mr. Young, who spent Saturday registering voters.

Mike Zickar, chairman of the Wood County Democratic Party, said Justice Kavanaugh’s “partisan outburst” during Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on Sept. 27 “showed he didn’t have the judicial temperament to be on the court.”

He also criticized the FBI investigation afterward for not interviewing Justice Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford.

“It really highlights how important it is for Democrats to win back the House and the Senate as a check on this train wreck of a presidency,” Mr. Zickar said. “We have a lot of energy on the Democratic side.”

He touted Democratic candidates U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and, for governor, Richard Cordray.

“It speaks to the importance of the ground game in the last three weeks,” Mr. Zickar said. “Whenever something good happens to the Republicans or President Trump, defined according to their terms, it only takes three or four days before President Trump does something else outrageous to ruin any goodwill.”

Senator Brown, on Twitter, said Justice Kavanaugh “has consistently sided with the most powerful special interests, not American workers. The stakes for Ohioans are too high to give this justice a lifetime appointment to our highest court.”

His Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, said in a statement that the new justice “is a thoughtful jurist with a proven respect for the Constitution. I believe he will make an excellent Supreme Court justice.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said he was proud to support the confirmation.

“Just as he has been highly regarded as a fair-minded and independent judge on the Circuit Court, I believe that is how he will be viewed on the Supreme Court,” Senator Portman said. He added that the confirmation process has become poisonous.

“Senators on both sides of the aisle need to work together to repair some of the damage to the institution and the country,” Senator Portman said, adding a proposal: “Let’s take a step back from the brink and lower the rhetoric. Let’s treat disagreements like disagreements, not as proof that our opponents are bad people.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.) said that he did not see an open mind or fairness in Justice Kavanaugh’s record, but instead a partisan ideologue inclined to rule in favor of the powerful.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation will provide only more division in our country and cast a cloud over the court for years to come.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich), said: “Decisions made by justices on the U.S. Supreme Court will impact Michigan and our families for decades to come. I sincerely believe Brett Kavanaugh is the wrong choice for this lifetime appointment.”

Information from The Blade’s news services was used in this report.

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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