Quite unexpectedly, we discovered in Ohio’s first quarter campaign finance filings that when total contributions are totaled and ranked, Yvette McGee Brown, Democrat for Supreme Court, comes out on top. Not on top of Supreme Court candidates, but above all other candidates for state office. Here are the top ten as of April 15:

Justice McGee Brown is out-raising her opponent, Judge Sharon Kennedy, by nearly 3 to 1.

This week also brought the news that Justice Brown was rated “Highly Recommended” by the 25,000-member Ohio State Bar Association. Kennedy, however, was labeled “not recommended,” indicating, in the words of OSBA, she was “not suited to perform the duties and responsibilities of chief justice or justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio.” It is the first time the rating has been issued to a candidate for Ohio Supreme Court since 1998.

Such a money advantage and an opponent thought “not suited” to carry out the duties of office by 25,000 legal professionals in the state should be an overwhelming advantage for Justice McGee Brown, right?

Unfortunately, money and ratings don’t equal votes. According to private polling, few Ohioans know either candidate by name. And Supreme Court races in Ohio are nonpartisan, meaning that there will be no “D” next to Brown’s name on the ballot. Without name recognition, many voters will simply opt out (in 2010, fully half a million more Ohioans voted for Governor than Chief Justice, indicating many knew too little about either candidate to cast an informed vote). Those that do vote may choose to do so based on name alone. In Ohio, Brown’s a good name to have in politics, but Kennedy’s not bad either.

And while Justice Brown may have a fundraising advantage when it comes to her official campaign, we’ve all seen the influence of secret, undisclosed money flowing into “independent” groups and used to run attack ads against candidates. Kennedy may attract her share of independent expenditures, given the importance of the court in ruling on highly political cases such as the constitutionality of new state laws advanced by Ohio’s GOP-dominated legislature and Governor.

So while we should all congratulate Justice Brown for her impressive rating from the Bar Association and her fundraising prowess in the first quarter, no one should rest until they’ve done all they can to support her candidacy, because a win is anything but assured.

I couldn’t do this post and not share this photo from Judge Kennedy’s website. Between the Sarah Palin up-do and the flag backdrop, it screams Tea Party, doesn’t it?


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