For the first time in more than three decades, a Democrat will run the Summit County Probate Court.
In a race that pitted two of the parties’ most popular sitting common pleas judges, Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer defeated Republican Judge Alison McCarty, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.
For Stormer, the probate court win marks a reversal of fortunes from her narrow loss in 2008 to longtime Probate Judge Bill Spicer. A Republican, Spicer held the seat for more than 30 years until retiring last year.
Current Probate Judge Todd McKenney accepted an appointment from Gov. John Kasich and soon afterward announced he would not run.
In other judicial races, incumbent common pleas judges Paul Gallagher and Tom Teodosio, both Democrats, easily won re-election. Gallagher defeated Republican Dave Lombardi. Teodosio beat Eddie Sipplen, a Republican making his first political run.
Akron Municipal Judge Kathryn Michael, a Democrat, lost a tight race with incumbent Common Pleas Judge Tammy O’Brien.
Incumbent Judge Amy Corrigall Jones beat Democrat John Fickes.
Two incumbent Ohio Supreme Court justices lost.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell, the only incumbent winner, beat challenger Mike Skindell, a Democrat.
Justice Robert Cupp lost to venerable judicial candidate Bill O’Neill, a Democrat. And incumbent Justice Yvette McGee Brown, the only Democrat on the court, lost to challenger Sharon Kennedy, a domestic relation judge from Butler County.
On the Akron-based 9th District Court of Appeals, incumbent Judge Clair Dickinson lost in a close race against Republican challenger Jennifer Hensal, who ran for Akron mayor last year.
Summit County Democratic and Republican parties intended to spend more on the probate race than any other campaign. The court brings a bounty of political patronage jobs, attorney appointments and assignments to local community boards.
For Stormer, the probate contest marks the second time she took on McCarty in a countywide race, In 2004 for a common pleas court seat, Stormer won, taking 53 percent of the vote.
The win fueled her run in 2008 against Spicer and she barely lost, as Spicer squeaked out 51 percent of the vote, or 4,500 votes of about 225,000 cast.
Probate court judges oversee wills, estates, adoptions and guardianship cases. They also appoint attorneys, who are paid sometimes large sums, to oversee wards of the state.
Stormer, a judge since 1991, said she intends to increase community-outreach programs to help make the court more public-friendly and transparent. She favors electronic filing of cases and making court records more available online.
She also wants to pay closer attention to elder abuse cases and guardianship cases to ensure fair and compassionate treatment of older residents. Stormer vowed to take politics out of probate court.
McCarty, a former assistant prosecutor known for her tough stance on crime, said she has spent her career protecting the most vulnerable, innocent and abused citizens: children and the elderly.
Stormer will finish McKenney’s final two years and run again for a full six-year term in 2014. McCarty retains her seat.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.