Saturday, September 27, 2003

Pfeifer wins GOP nod - and nays

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Once again, the Ohio Republican Party has endorsed GOP Justice Paul Pfeifer of the Ohio Supreme Court. Once again, the vote was less than unanimous.

The party's State, Central and Executive Committee on Friday breezed through endorsements for Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, Justice Terrence O'Donnell and Toledo appeals Judge Judy Lanzinger for a seat that will be left open by Justice Francis Sweeney, a Democrat who is retiring.

But when the vote for Pfeifer was called, several committee members loudly said "no." Ohio party Chairman Robert Bennett then asked for a show of hands and the vote was 34-11, he said. The votes were preceded by a 45-minute closed-door discussion.

Pfeifer has angered some Republicans by his votes in a majority that threw out changes in workers' compensation law and found Ohio's school funding system and a law limiting damages awarded in lawsuits unconstitutional.

Pfeifer faced the same treatment in 1998 when the party's endorsement was questioned and some Republicans gave campaign money to his opponent, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Suster. Pfeifer was re-elected with 71 percent of the vote.

Pfeifer, who is running for a third six-year term, said Friday he expected some grumbling about the endorsement.

"I don't know if you ever get used to it, but I understand it," Pfeifer said. "If it's a big-tent party, then there surely is room for me, I assume ... I wouldn't want to be part of a process where dissent was just quashed."

Bennett said he was happy to get the endorsement through the committee.

"There's a philosophical difference on some of the members of committee between Justice Pfeifer's rulings on the Supreme Court and the feelings of members of the Republican family and I think that was reflected in the vote, but it still got 75 percent," Bennett said.

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