April 23rd, 2024

Lisa Forbes wins Democratic nomination for Ohio Supreme Court’s only open seat

By Christine Fernando, The Associated Press on March 19, 2024.

Lisa Forbes has won the Democratic nomination for the only open seat on the Ohio Supreme Court, which holds sway over how to implement an amendment to the state constitution protecting abortion rights. The seat is one of three up for election in the fall that will determine whether Democrats can flip the court from its current 4-3 Republican majority.

Forbes, a judge on the 8th District Court of Appeals, defeated Judge Terri Jamison, who sits on the 10th District Court of Appeals.

In November, Forbes will face Dan Hawkins, a Republican judge of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Ohio is one of 33 states with supreme court races this year and among the few where voters have an opportunity to flip partisan control of the court. The institutions have been under increasing scrutiny in recent years because they often are the court of last resort for some of the most high-profile issues that divide the nation, including abortion, voting rights and redistricting.

Just weeks ago, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children, a decision that temporarily halted in vitro fertilization treatments in the state and sparked a national debate over reproductive rights. A race for one seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year was the costliest state high court campaign on record ““ $42 million ““ and eventually flipped control from conservatives to liberals.

To flip control of Ohio’s court, Democrats must sweep all three contested races in November, retaining two incumbents – Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart – and the open seat for which Forbes won the nomination. That will be a difficult task, given that the state Supreme Court has been under Republican control since 1986 and the former swing state’s overall politics have tacked right in recent years.

But Democrats see an opening after 57% of Ohio voters backed a reproductive rights measure last fall. They plan to draw attention to the court’s influence over the amendment’s future and see the races as a possible way to chip away at the Republican Party’s longstanding control of all three branches of government in Ohio.

Endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party, Forbes has served on the 8th District Court of Appeals since 2020. Before then, she was a partner at a Cleveland office of a national law firm, where she focused on business and consumer class-action law.

During her campaign, Forbes hinted at the importance of building 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,” she said. “I will never bend to political pressure, and I will always stand up for your rights.”

The open seat for which Forbes will compete against Hawkins is being vacated by Republican Joe Deters, who was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2022. Deters has decided not to seek reelection but to instead challenge Democratic Justice Melody Stewart for her seat in November.

The term for Stewart’s seat runs through 2030 – four years longer than what’s available on Deters’ current seat. The incumbent-versus-incumbent primary would tend to favor the Republican, given the state’s politics.

The open seat was the only one contested in Tuesday’s primary.

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The Associated Press”¯receives support from several private foundations to enhance its explanatory coverage of elections and democracy. See more about AP’s democracy initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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