Suddenly, we find ourselves on the last day of 2013, with the impending 2014 election season staring us squarely in the eyes. Before we move forward into the New Year, we at the Ohio Chamber are reflecting on the year that has been. As a result, we’ve come up with the top 5 events that shook up the political landscape in Ohio this year; events that have undoubtedly set the stage for Ohio in 2014. But before the ball drops, the strings are pulled on all the party poppers, and the champagne bottles are opened, before we set our sights firmly on 2014, weigh in and share your reflections on 2013 and predictions for Ohio politics in 2014 with us on Twitter.
Justice Judith French Assumes Seat on Ohio Supreme Court
Appointed by Gov. John Kasich to succeed retiring Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Justice French officially took office in January. She’ll serve the remaining two years of the six-year term Justice Stratton was elected to in 2008, and be on the ballot for a full term in 2014. Justice French shares a judicial philosophy similar to Justice Stratton, believing that her role as a judge is limited to interpreting the law, not making it.
Ed FitzGerald Officially Launches His Bid for Governor
The biggest story of the year was the announcement by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald that he would seek the Democratic nomination for governor to run against incumbent GOP Gov. Kasich. Similarly important were the decisions by all the other major Democratic contenders not to run, and he received the official Ohio Democratic Party endorsement in September. The anticipated Kasich-FitzGerald head-to-head race, providing it does materialize, will be the main political event of 2014.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Announces Supreme Court Bid
Witnessing the outcome of the 2012 elections for the Ohio Supreme Court, which saw candidates with familiar surnames like O’Neill and Kennedy both defeat incumbent justices despite being outspent, it’s no surprise that when Ohio Democrats went looking for a challenger to take on Justice French, they stopped when they got to John O’Donnell. O’Donnell is currently a Cuyahoga County common pleas court judge, who says he’d “bring a different perspective than Justice French.” A different perspective, undoubtedly. But his mighty recognizable name is more important in a Supreme Court contest.
Lt. Governor Candidate Eric Kearney Withdraws
Within 48 hours of Ed FitzGerald’s announcement that state Sen. Eric Kearney would join him on the ticket, stories broke about the amount of unpaid state and federal taxes owed by Kearney and his companies. Eventually, the stories became too much of a distraction for the campaign, and Kearney announced his withdrawal less than three weeks later.
Portune Contemplates Challenge to FitzGerald in Democratic Primary
For months, it looked like FitzGerald would have the Democratic field to himself and thus be able to concentrate all his efforts on defeating Gov. Kasich in November. But just yesterday, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune announced plans to spend the next month – the filing deadline is February 5 – travelling Ohio and gauging support for his potential candidacy. If he does end up running, he’d have his work cut out for him, given all the institutional support FitzGerald has already locked up. But even a possible Portune candidacy qualifies as a major political story.