He tries again:
For the third time in eight years, former state appellate judge William M. O’Neill will try to replace a Republican incumbent on the Ohio Supreme Court. O’Neill, who retired from the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren in 2007, defeated Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon A. Rucker in today’s Democratic primary.
With 73 percent of precincts reporting, O’Neill led 72 percent to 28 percent in the state’s only contested primary for Supreme Court. He moves on to face Justice Robert R. Cupp, who was unopposed today, in November. The high court is dominated by the GOP, 6-1.
The Ohio Democratic Party backed Rucker, 40, over O’Neill, 64, in the race. O’Neill refuses to raise money for his campaign, saying justices become beholden to the private interests that fund their campaigns.
In 2004 and 2006, O’Neill won Democratic primaries but lost to Justice Terrence O’Donnell, a Republican, in the general election.
Okay, full disclosure; I helped O’Neill in his last losing general judicial campaign in 2006. I didn’t do much, although I did hand these out at parades:
There is a small printing press in the garage of Judge O’Neill. In the evenings, he and his children produce fliers for a long-shot no-money campaign for Justice O’Donnell’s seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. “We’re going to do a million pieces for $4,000 from my pocket,” Judge O’Neill said, explaining that he will not accept a penny in contributions. Even some of his supporters view his effort as quixotic, notwithstanding the higher ratings Judge O’Neill gets from many Ohio bar associations.
2006 was a very good year for Democrats in Ohio, so no one in the county Party was at all interested in O’Neill’s quixotic campaign. It was a little lonely out there at those parades, handing out the homemade fliers, although people don’t pay attention to judicial elections so when you’re asking for votes at a parade people sometimes assume you’re the judge who is running.
“Thank you for coming out, judge”, they say, as you cram the flyer into their hand. Oh, my pleasure, but I prefer “your honor”, so show some damned respect. And take that ball cap off, young man, and look at me when I’m speaking to you. I was sick with black robe disease and I’m not even a judge. I don’t know if my inadvertent impersonation of then-Judge O’Neill helped him or hurt him in 2006, but I can’t explain every little thing to everyone on a parade route.
Judge O’Neill’s assertion that seats on the Supreme Court are for sale infuriates many in the legal establishment in Ohio, and in July 2004 the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court began an investigation into whether Judge O’Neill had violated judicial ethics by making similar statements in the last campaign.
Judge O’Neill laughed when asked if the investigation worried him.
“I am a Vietnam veteran, and I lost my wife 10 years ago,” he said. “I raised four kids by myself. When you talk about fear, I fear big things in life. Being hauled before a disciplinary counsel does not qualify.”
For the time being, a federal judge has suspended the investigation on First Amendment grounds. If the Ohio Legislature is troubled by Judge O’Neill’s conduct, the federal judge, Ann Aldrich wrote, “the proper solution is to stop electing judges and make state judgeships appointed offices.”
Judge O’Neill disagreed. He likes elections, he said.
“We have more authority over people’s lives than anyone else in elected office,” he said. “We decide who goes to jail and who gets out of jail. We decide what happens to your life savings after you die. We decide whether or not you will be permitted to finish raising your child. I can’t think of any other industry that has a more profound impact on people’s lives. And it is arrogant at best that some committee should make this appointment.”
This is O’Neill’s site. See what’s missing? A donate button.