Former judge wins Ohio Dems' high court primary

3:04 AM, Mar 7, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A former veteran state appeals court judge won the Democratic nomination for Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday, setting himself up for a third run for the state's high court.

William O'Neill, 64, of South Russell, defeated Hamilton County Municipal Judge Fanon Rucker in the primary election.

O'Neill had resigned from the 11th District Court of Appeals after serving for a decade ending in 2007, and he had made two unsuccessful tries for the Supreme Court. He will face Justice Robert Cupp in the fall.

O'Neill started the race on the defensive, filing a legal challenge contesting the state's initial determination that he did not have enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Secretary of State Jon Husted reviewed O'Neill's filings after the legal challenge and determined enough signatures were potentially viable to warrant giving O'Neill a ballot position.

Last week, O'Neill faced another hurdle. After an election complaint, a Hamilton County judicial panel said O'Neill had violated the judicial code of conduct by implying to voters he was still on the bench. He pledged to revise statements made on his website.

Rucker, 40, was running for the seat for the first time. His father is an Indiana Supreme Court justice.

Then-Gov. Ted Strickland appointed him to the bench in 2007, and he was subsequently elected to the municipal court.

A native of Gary, Ind., Rucker was endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party as well as several county parties in O'Neill's backyard: Cuyahoga, Mahoning and Stark.

The Ohio College Democrats also were behind his candidacy.

O'Neill resigned from the court in 2007 to run for Congress, losing to incumbent Republican Steve LaTourette in 2008 and again in 2010. He also tried to get on the high court, in 2004 and 2006.

Rucker was trying to become the second black Democrat on the general election ballot -- alongside Ohio's first black female justice, Yvette McGee Brown.

Brown was Strickland's running mate in 2010.

O'Neill is a graduate of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, a registered nurse, and retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army.

Rucker got his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where he now serves as an adjunct professor teaching the history of black law. He is also a former Cincinnati prosecutor.

Republican Cupp, a former state senator, is seeking his second six-year term.

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

The Associated Press

Most Watched Videos