State bar association requests more Ohio Supreme Court race ads be removed as misleading

The Ohio State Bar Association is asking for three more TV ads in the Ohio Supreme Court race to be taken down, saying they’re misleading.

On Oct. 27, the bar association’s Judicial Election Campaign Advertising Monitoring Committee wrote to the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee asking it to stop running an ad attacking three Democratic candidates for the state’s highest court.

The RSLC refused, and now the Ohio Democratic Party is refusing in turn to cancel an ad assailing Republican justices Pat DeWine and Patrick Fischer, who are running for reelection.

“Unlike Republicans, our ads are based in truth, and we stand behind them,” said Matt Keyes, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party.

The bar association’s ad committee is also asking DeWine’s campaign to take down an ad targeting his Democratic opponent, First District Court of Appeals Judge Marilyn Zayas.

On Thursday, the bar association’s ad committee sent letters to Democrats, the DeWine judicial campaign, and North Carolina-based Forward Justice, a nonprofit “dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic justice in the U.S. South.” The committee’s decisions and action were in response to written complaints received by the bar association.

One letter asked Democrats to end its “dangerous” ad against DeWine and Fischer.

“It is false to say that Justice(s) DeWine and Justice Fischer ‘will ban’ abortions when under the constitutional separation of powers, they do not have that authority,” it says. “It is the legislature that makes the laws and judges interpret them. Further, in accordance with judicial canons, neither justice you criticize has taken a position or said how they would rule in such cases.”

A second letter went to DeWine’s campaign, arguing that it’s without foundation to claim Zayas opposes considering public safety when setting bail.

DeWine’s campaign did not respond immediately Friday to a request for comment, but Zayas issued a statement.

“I once again call on Pat DeWine to stop impugning the integrity of our judicial system,” she said. “Ohioans can rest assured I will always faithfully apply the law and the Constitution, independent of outside influence or partisan pressure.”

And the third letter went out to Forward Justice, against its ad criticizing DeWine and Fischer. Voting not to consider an appellate case does not put those judges “on the side of pedophiles,” the letter said.

Forward Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Three of the seven Ohio Supreme Court seats are up for election this year, including the chief justiceship. All three available seats are now held by Republicans.

This year, for the first time, candidates’ party affiliation will appear beside their name on the ballot. The election results could shift the balance on the court as it’s expected to consider hot-button issues including abortion and legislative redistricting.

Two current justices, Democrat Jennifer Brunner and Republican Sharon Kennedy, are seeking the chief justiceship. DeWine is seeking a second term, opposed by Zayas. Fischer is also seeking a second term; his Democratic challenger is Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison.