2021 Municipal Court races in Franklin County feature four incumbents

John Futty
| The Columbus Dispatch

Four incumbent Franklin County Municipal Court judges will face opposition in the November election, if petitions filed with the board of elections this week are certified.

Voters also will decide three races for open seats on the court.

Franklin County Municipal Court incumbents compete to hold seats

The lineup of sitting judges and those who filed to run against them are:

  • Judge Cynthia Ebner, a Democrat, against Republican Mark Miller
  • Judge Jim O’Grady, who switched his political affiliation last year from Republican to Democrat, challenged by Republican Josh Brown
  • Judge Stephanie Mingo, a Republican who oversees the environmental court, against Democrat Scott Kirschman
  • Judge David Tyack, a Republican, versus Democrat Mary Kay Fenlon

The challengers include a former judicial candidate, Brown, who lost a bid for a Common Pleas seat in November, and a Franklin County assistant prosecutor, Kirschman, who has held that job since 2002.

Who is running for the three open seats?

The three open seats on the Municipal Court ballot were created by the retirements of two judges and the death of third.

Those races will feature: 

  • Democrat Bill Hedrick versus Republican Don Kline for the seat being vacated by the retirement of Judge Ted Barrows, who is barred from seeking re-election by an Ohio law that prohibits judges from beginning a term after age 70.
  • Republican Gina R. Russo versus Democrat Rena Nicole Shak for the seat vacated by the recent, early retirement of Judge Paul Herbert.
  • Republican Michael John King versus Democrat Mike McAllister for the opening that has existed since Judge H. William Pollitt Jr. died of COVID-19 complications in August.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Republican, is empowered to make appointments to fill the seats held by Herbert and Pollitt until the voters choose their successors, but hasn’t done so yet.

Hedrick is senior lead prosecutor for the Columbus city attorney’s office, where he has worked for 25 years, and Kline is a lawyer in private practice who ran unsuccessfully for city attorney in 2017.

Russo is a former county prosecutor and former Common Pleas judge, who lost her seat in the November election, and Shak is a staff attorney in the county public defender’s office.

King is law director for the village of Granville in Licking County, and McAllister is a magistrate in Franklin County Juvenile Court.

In other races: Dozen candidates file for Columbus City Council primary

Two incumbents, Judges Mark Hummer and Eileen Y. Paley, both Democrats, didn’t draw challengers by Thursday’s filing deadline, and it appears they will run unopposed.

Although Municipal Court races in Franklin County are considered nonpartisan and party affiliation won’t appear on the ballot, the candidates have been endorsed by and will have campaign support from their respective parties.

The candidates will be certified for the ballot if they submitted at least 50 valid signatures from registered Franklin County voters. The certification could occur as early as Feb. 16, the next board of elections meeting.

There will be no primary election for the judgeships. Certified candidates will appear on the ballot in the general election on Nov. 2.  




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