Home Campus Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill talks run for governor

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill talks run for governor

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upreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill came to Ohio U's campus to discuss his candidacy and his vision for the state. Photo via Ohio Supreme Court.

Not long after he announced plans to run for Ohio’s highest office, Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill came to Ohio U’s campus to discuss his candidacy and his vision for the state.

Justice Bill O’Neill of the Ohio Supreme Court the latest Democrat to announce his run for Ohio governor came to campus Monday for a meet and greet hosted by the Ohio University College Democrats.

The meeting itself, where he discussed his gubernatorial campaign with the Ohio U College Democrats, was only set up a day in advance, according to members of the College Democrats.

O’Neill has not officially filed the paperwork to become a candidate for governor due to a rule banning state supreme court justices from seeking other elected positions while still seated on the court. He has also not started taking donations, and said during the meeting that he will do so after he files his paperwork on Feb. 7, when he will officially be a candidate in the eyes of the state of Ohio.

Critics of the justice have called this approach to campaigning a loophole. O’Neill argued that he is working within the law so long as he does not file his official declaration of candidacy until after he has resigned.

“I don’t think that he would announce [his candidacy] right now if it wasn’t necessarily perfectly ethical, because when he was running for the Supreme Court he was very concerned with the ethics of being a judge,” said Ashley Fishwick, the president of the College Democrats.

“That’s why he ran on not taking money from anyone else. I don’t think if it was truly illegal or unethical that he would have made this move.”

State Senator Joseph Schiavoni, one of O’Neill’s opponents in the primary, has called the justice’s campaign a “press stunt,” and suggested that he is not serious about running for governor. O’Neill has vowed to bow out of the race if former Attorney General Richard Cordray decides to run for governor.

If he does not drop out, O’Neill faces opposition from four other democrats during the primary including Schiavoni, Dayton’s mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.

During the meet and greet, O’Neill was confronted by Bailey Williams, membership director for the College Democrats, regarding comments he had made and then retracted regarding the recent protests by players in the NFL. He does not agree with the players kneeling during the National Anthem, but does claim to be very conscious of racial issues in America.

“I fully understand that the problems in America have not been solved, and should be solved,” O’Neill said. He then went on to discuss his adopted African-American child and his previous work with the African-American community.

“While I fully respect the right of the African-American community to bring to everyone’s attention that we have problems here, we’ve got cops shooting people in the back of the head, that’s a big problem that shouldn’t be happening today. What I’m saying is, there’s a better way to bring everybody together.”

O’Neill was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1996 and was re-elected in 2002, elections which he won while taking no money from political action committees. This is a strategy he has promised to continue in this gubernatorial race.

“What I’ve said to the world is: If you want to be the governor of Ohio, you’ve got to start talking about ideas,” O’Neill said at the start of the meeting.

As he explained his ideas to the roughly ten people around the table, O’Neill frequently drew from personal experiences such as his time at Ohio U.

O’Neill described his time after graduating from Ohio U in 1969 as hectic. He served in the army in the Vietnam War, and worked as a waiter, television reporter, bartender, trial lawyer, restaurant owner, pediatric nurse and judge on the Federal Court of Appeals.

All of these different jobs and experiences, according to O’Neill, helped to shape his platform. That platform includes legalizing marijuana in Ohio, raising the state minimum wage to $15 and revamping mental health care for the state.

The College Democrats do not officially support any candidate for governor.

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