William O’Neill has been on the ballot four times since 2004, twice running unsuccessfully for the U.S. House after making two failed runs for the Ohio Supreme Court. Now he is back, again seeking a seat on the high court, running in the Democratic primary. As in the past, O’Neill brings a sharp mind, lively campaign style and a simple message to the race: “Money and judges don’t mix.”
O’Neill has been relentless in his criticism of a system in which judicial candidates round up campaign cash and then sit on cases involving the contributors. He doesn’t take contributions, which is high-minded, obviously, yet no way to compete in a statewide campaign. What he does bring to the race is a wide range of experience, considerable legal skills and good judgment.
Notably, O’Neill served 10 years on the 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals, starting in 1997, gaining apt preparation for the business of the Supreme Court. He worked for 12 years as an assistant state attorney general, under four administrations, Republican and Democratic. He has spent much time in trial work involving an array of cases, larger and small. Then add a second career of late, as a registered nurse in the pediatric emergency department of Hillcrest Hospital.
We recommend the election of William O’Neill on March 6.
His opponent is Judge Fanon Rucker of the Hamilton County Municipal Court, who is a strong candidate in his own way. For starters, Rucker makes the party happy by running in the conventional way. His campaign will raise money.
Rucker began his legal career in the mid-1990s as a prosecutor with the city of Cincinnati. He then went into private practice, focusing on civil rights, employment discrimination and municipal law. In 2007, he joined the bench. He has displayed broader leadership in the community, for instance, his participation on the commission formed in the wake of racial troubles in Cincinnati. He views his strongest skills as a judge as his precision in applying the law and his capacity to listen.
Yet for all of his strengths, Rucker is not the better equipped candidate in this race.