First Candidate TV Ads to Air in Ohio Supreme Court Primary

February 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, residents of Cleveland, Ohio will see the first television ads in the state’s Republican primary for the Ohio Supreme Court. The ads will support candidate Pat Fischer, a current court of appeals judge. With just under three weeks to go before the state’s Supreme Court primary on March 15, Fischer’s campaign has signed contracts for at least $54,470 in TV advertising.

The figure is according to an analysis of public FCC records by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice. Ad videos and storyboards, along with estimates by Kantar Media/CMAG of the value of ads broadcast to date, will be available on the Brennan Center’s “Buying Time” website next week. In addition, the Brennan Center and Justice at Stake will continue monitoring FCC contracts for the value of upcoming ad buys in the primary and general elections.

The Republican primary contest pits Judge Fischer and Court of Appeals Judge Colleen O’Toole against each other. Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell , a Democrat, is not facing a primary challenger and will face the Republican primary winner in the general election. Court of Appeals Judge Pat DeWine, a Republican, and Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Rice, a Democrat, do not face primary challengers in their contest for another open seat.  Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will run unopposed.

“We will continue to track television advertisements in Ohio, which has a history of mud-slinging ads and high-spending races,” said Alicia Bannon, Senior Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and a co-author of Bankrolling the Bench, a comprehensive report on spending in the 2013-14 judicial elections by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. 

“Ohio has a history of multimillion-dollar Supreme Court elections, and in the last cycle it was among a handful of states where election costs exceeded $1 million per seat,” said Susan Liss, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for fair courts and tracks judicial election spending. “With more evidence appearing that high spending in judicial campaigns has  an effect on courtroom rulings, these early signs that the money race may be on again this year raise serious concerns."

No other candidates have booked television ad time to date. The totals are accurate as of 8 a.m. CT, Feb. 25. Through Jan. 26, the candidates’ campaigns have reported raising a total of $440,494.34, as follows:  

O’Connor: $52,780

Fischer: $166,792

O’Toole: $4,680

O’Donnell: $0

DeWine: $216,242

Rice: $0