Ohio Supreme Court Justices Pat DeWine, Pat Fischer and Sharon Kennedy stirred some controversy after they attended former President Donald Trump’s rally in Youngstown on Sept. 17.
But both the spokesperson for the three Republican justices, Ryan Stubenrauch, and Democratic strategist, David Pepper, agree that it is normal for justices — of both parties — to go to campaign events.
“This is 40-something days until an election, so I think five or six statewide Republicans went to a statewide Republican rally, with thousands of Republican voters there,” Stubenrauch said. “That’s what candidates do.”
While Pepper said he believes it is okay for justices to attend campaign events, he added that there should be a line drawn.
“They’ll go to events, but generally they try and steer clear of anything that’s that political, that over the top,” Pepper said. “If you care about the rule of law, if you care about the sense that when you go to court, you’re going to get a fair hearing, that certainly sacrifices that confidence that you’re getting a fair hearing.”
The controversy came before a new law, however, will change what Ohioans see on their November election ballots.
Senate Bill 80 will place the state supreme court candidates next to their party affiliation on the general election ballot for the first time. It went into effect in 2021, and requires candidates for both supreme court justice and appellate court judge to have party affiliation listed next to their name. It doesn’t apply to county common pleas court candidates.
Stubenrauch said he believes it will inform voters.
“For the last several decades, name ID has been important in Supreme Court races because voters didn’t know whether it was a republican or democrat,” Stubenrauch said.
But Pepper said he believes the new law is a way for Republicans to boost themselves.
“They only changed it after they lost three out of four [Ohio Supreme Court seats]. They never changed it before,” Pepper said. “If they believed what you just said, they’d have it apply to the common pleas’ county level too. But they didn’t.”
With Election Day less than 50 days away, the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 11. Ohioans can register here.