Republicans again will occupy all seven seats on the Ohio Supreme Court with Gov. John Kasich's appointment of a justice to fill the unexpired term of the departing William M. O'Neill.
Kasich, a second-term Republican, announced Thursday that Mary DeGenaro, a judge on the Youngstown-based Seventh District Court of Appeals, will fill O'Neill's unexpired term through Jan. 1.
The choice of DeGenaro was politically predictable since she has been endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party and her appointment will allow her to run as a seated justice.
O'Neill resigned effective Friday to seek the Democratic nomination for governor, generating controversy — and a Senate attempt to remove him from the bench — for announcing a run for partisan office on Oct. 29 while still sitting on the high court.
O'Neill's resignation leaves U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown as the only Democrat to hold statewide elective office in Ohio.
O'Neill was barred from seeking a second six-year term on the court because he had reached the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. Republican Justice Terrence O'Donnell also will be ousted by the age limit.
DeGenaro, 56, has served on Youngstown appellate court since 2000. She previously was elected to Poland Village Council. She received her bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and her law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
At the Statehouse announcement, Kasich said he was pleased with DeGenaro's statements that she will decide cases on the merits without the color of politics playing a role. While not signaling out the Ohio Supreme Court, Kasich said he fears that politics are improperly filtering into the judiciary. "Partisanship in the judiciary is not healthy," he said.
"Her command of the law is strong and she brings a conservative philosophy to the court that is evident in her 17-year record on the appellate bench," Kasich said.
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor swore in DeGenaro on Thursday, but her service on the court will not begin until Sunday. "I will work diligently, fairly and collegially with the other justices on the court. And I will do my part to make sure the public continues to have confidence in their Supreme Court," DeGenaro said.
In addition to DeGenaro, the only other applicants for O'Neill's seat were Richard L. Johnson, a partner in the Toledo law firm of Eastman & Smith, and Carol M. Gottschling, director of human resources for Lorain City Schools.
Craig Baldwin, a former Licking County judge who has sat on the Canton-based Fifth District Court of Appeals since 2013, is the GOP-endorsed candidate for O'Donnell's seat.
The only Democrat to announce a run for the Ohio Supreme Court is Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael P. Donnelly. Melody Stewart, a judge on the Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cleveland, is circulating petitions to make the Democratic primary ballot on May 8.
Ohio judges and justices are nominated in partisan primaries, but are not listed by party affiliation on general-election ballots.
Republicans also held every Ohio Supreme Court seat as recently as 2012, prior to O'Neill defeating incumbent Republican Robert Cupp and taking office in 2013.