Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Ohio’s Odd Election Results

Yesterday, Republicans swept nearly all the statewide races in Ohio. Republican candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor (DeWine and Husted), Attorney General (Yost), Treasurer (Sprague), Auditor (Faber), and Secretary of State (LaRose) all prevailed. These victories were fairly decisive. The DeWine-Husted ticket won in 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties. The one partisan race Republicans lost was for the U.S. Senate, where Congressman Jim Renacci failed to unseat incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown.

While Republicans did well in the statewide races, the Republican nominees for two open state Supreme Court seats both lost to their Democrat-nominated opponents. (In Ohio, judicial candidates are nominated in partisan primaries, but are not identified by party on the general-election ballot.)

Judge Melody Stewart defeated incumbent Justice Mary DeGenaro and Judge Michael Donnelly defeated Judge Craig Baldwin, with 52 and 61 percent of the vote respectively. What gives? For starters, there’s a fair amount of down-ballot drop off in judicial races. Many in Ohio also speculate that voters often vote based on the names of judicial candidates, and that Irish sounding names do particularly well (an explanation that might help explain the different vote totals in the two races). Whatever the explanation, the broad support for Republican candidates in Ohio did not extend to the race for Ohio’s Supreme Court, which now consists of five justices who were Republican nominees and two justices who were Democratic nominees.

Jonathan H. Adler is the Johan Verhiej Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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