One of the most interesting set of results in yesterday’s election came in Ohio’s Supreme Court where two incumbents – one Republican and one Democrat – lost their seats.

Democratic Justice Yvette McGee Brown was at the top of most fundraising lists throughout the campaign.

Brown received the coveted Ohio FOP endorsement with nearly unanimous support despite the fact that her opponent, Sharon Kennedy, had once been a police officer.

And The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) rated Justice Brown “Highly Recommended” while her opponent Sharon Kennedy received the first “Not Recommended” rating in recent memory.

And yet, Kennedy won the race.

Despite her great fundraising and her opponent’s lack of qualifications, history was not on Yvette’s side. No Democrat has won a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court since 2000.

Which is why Bill O’Neill’s victory yesterday took many by surprise.

This was Democrat O’Neill’s third attempt at running for the Supreme Court. While O’Neill has 11 years of judicial experience he has most recently spent time working as an emergency room nurse in Cleveland. O’Neill received a “Recommended” rating from the OSBA compared to sitting Justice Cupp’s “Highly Recommended”.

But the most interesting and strangely exciting part about O’Neill and his win last night? He vowed to take no campaign contributions.

This no-money pledge is not new for O’Neill. He made it during his other two campaigns as well. But this time he actually won.

Cupp’s most recent campaign finance report shows $473,370 cash on hand.

O’Neill’s shows 0 dollars, the campaign having spent the $166.95 they had on hand from the previous report.

More than a few people are currently scratching their heads.

The poorly-timed, rape-themed ad released by the Ohio Republican Party against O’Neill certainly didn’t help Cupp in this race. But it seems unlikely that was the cause of this loss.

Another possibility: Kennedy and O’Neill are both good, Democratic sounding names. Without party affiliation on the ballots, it’s possible they both benefited from high Democratic turnout.

While it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any other candidates – judicial or otherwise – adopting O’Neill’s no-money strategy any time soon, we might just find Republicans rethinking their stance on party affiliation and ballots – or possibly just expanding their strategy for choosing candidates with last names that have cross-party appeal.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell was the only candidate who kept his seat, defeating Democrat state Sen. Mike Skindell.

 

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