Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O’Connor is leaving public office.

Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is the longest-serving woman in a state elected office in Ohio history.

After splitting from her political party and voting against the legislative and congressional maps drawn by Republicans, Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O’Connor received letters from Ohioans thanking her for her courage.

She brushes the praise aside. She says she only did the right thing.

“People think, ‘Well, you’re a Republican and you sided with three Democrats, it must have taken courage.’ But I’ve never been that Republican. I’ve never been that partisan,” O’Connor said as her two decades on the court come to an end. “Let’s put it this way, I would never use the bridges I burned to get across anyway.”

Redefine OhioOhio just voted with unconstitutional tickets. What’s next for redistricting?

And to lawmakers who threatened to impeach her and party leaders who removed her photo from Ohio Republican Party headquarters over their redistribution decisions, O’Connor said, “I’ve been called better than worse. And I don’t care .”

Ohio’s constitution prohibits judges from standing for election after age 70 — a rule O’Connor calls stupid and ridiculous. As a result, O’Connor will step down on December 31.

Maureen O’Connor’s future

Ohio is not the last to see Maureen O’Connor.

She wants to put a constitutional amendment to change Ohio’s redistribution process – again – on the statewide vote as early as 2024. Who will be involved, how it will be funded or what the details will be has yet to be determined. But O’Connor says the starting point should be the establishment of an independent commission.

“They have to take it away from the politicians and I think, frankly, frankly, that’s going to be approved,” she said, adding that she expects opponents to praise “lies and distortions.”

Ohio voters passed legislative and congressional reforms for new district elections in 2015 and 2018. This year the new rules were put to the test as new political maps were drawn.

O’Connor sided with Justices Jennifer Brunner, Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart – three Democrats – in multiple rulings that the congressional and legislative maps were unconstitutional. The seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission ignored orders from the state supreme court to redraw the maps.

“It’s a terrible example of one branch of government not respecting (another branch) because they don’t like the decision. Come on, do you think people can do this? I mean, the average person says, ‘I don’t like the law. I know they passed, but I don’t have to follow it.’? Come on,” O’Connor said in an interview with the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau.

After a career as a Republican elected official, O’Connor says she doesn’t share the values ​​now displayed in the GOP. “I haven’t and I still don’t. I never did.

While she was still a registered Republican, O’Connor declined to disclose how she voted in the 2022 midterm election.

What is Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s track record?

O’Connor grew up in Parma and Strongsville, near Cleveland, in an Irish Catholic family of eight children.

O’Connor graduated from Cleveland State University Law School. She served as a probate court judge and a general actions court judge in Summit County. When a position opened up, she decided that the district attorney’s job was too important to leave to anyone.

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O’Connor broke into statewide politics in 1998 as the running mate for former governor Bob Taft. When Taft won, O’Connor took on dual duties as lieutenant governor and director of public safety.

Her career highlights include:

At the ballot box, O’Connor proved to be a powerhouse. In 2002 she won with 500,000 votes. In 2008, she won almost 3 million votes – more than former President Barack Obama received. In 2010, she beat Democrat Eric Brown, who former Gov. Ted Strickland had appointed as chief justice. And in 2016 she ran unopposed and received 3.56 million votes.

Time and time again, O’Connor credits her associates on the Ohio Supreme Court for her accomplishments.

“I don’t do anything alone,” she says. “I always say I hire people who are smarter than me and I listen to them. And they give me good advice, we have great discussions and make decisions as needed. I respect my employees very much.”

When asked what advice she would give Chief Justice-elect Sharon Kennedy about taking office, O’Connor didn’t hesitate: “Listen to your staff.”