High-Stakes Battle for Ohio Supreme Court Begins with Democratic Primary Amidst Abortion Rights Amendment and Partisan Control Struggle


Tuesday’s Democratic primary for one of three contested Ohio Supreme Court seats will mark the beginning of a high-stakes battle for partisan control of the court this fall.

The court, which now has a 4-3 Republican majority, has authority over how to apply a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights that voters decisively adopted last year.

Ohio is one of 33 states holding supreme court races this year and one of the few where voters can change political control of the court.

To do so, Democrats must win all three contests in November, keeping two incumbents (Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart) and filling a vacant seat. That will be a challenging undertaking, considering that the state Supreme Court has been controlled by Republicans since 1986, and the former swing state’s broader politics have shifted right in recent years.

But Democrats see an opportunity after 57% of Ohio voters supported a reproductive rights measure last month. They intend to highlight the court’s power over the amendment’s future and see the elections as a potential means to chip away at the Republican Party’s long-held control of all three branches of government in Ohio.

In Tuesday’s primary, only one seat is being contested. In the Democratic primary, Lisa Forbes, a judge on the 8th District Court of Appeals, will face Terri Jamison, a judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals.

The winner will face Dan Hawkins, a Republican judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, for the one available seat in November. Hawkins previously served in the Franklin County prosecutor’s office and as a judge in the Franklin County Municipal Court.

Forbes, who is backed by the Ohio Democratic Party, has been on the 8th District Court of Appeals since 2020. She was previously a partner at a national law firm’s Cleveland office, where she practiced commercial and consumer class action work.

Jamison, who received 43% of the vote in a 2022 election against Ohio Supreme Court incumbent Pat Fischer, a Republican, has been on the 10th District Court of Appeals since 2020. She also spent two years as judge of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division, worked as a public defender in Franklin County, and founded her own law office. If elected, Jamison would become the third Black woman to serve on Ohio’s Supreme Court.

During their campaigns, both candidates mentioned the significance of establishing a Democratic majority on the court.

“The Supreme Court needs to be an effective firewall to protect our democracy, our constitutional rights, and the rule of law,” Forbes said in an ad for the campaign. “I will never bend to political pressure and always stand up for your rights.”

Jamison stated in a campaign advertisement that the Ohio Supreme Court “should be accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy or powerful.”

“It can provide checks and balances to those who overreach or abuse power,” she went on to say.

In addition to abortion, campaign concerns may include redistricting, public education, health care, the environment, and criminal justice.

Forbes and Jamison are seeking their party’s candidacy for the seat held by Republican Joe Deters, who was appointed by the governor in 2022.

Deters has opted to challenge Justice Melody Stewart, a Democrat, for her seat, which has a tenure that goes through 2030, four years longer than his present seat. Given the state’s politics, the incumbent-versus-incumbent primary would most likely favor the Republican.

In the third court contest, Democratic Justice Michael Donnelly will face Republican Judge Megan Shanahan of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in the November general election. Stewart and Donnelly were elected to the court, which was then entirely Republican, in 2018.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.