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In the battle for judgeships, Winkler bests Luken


In a battle of two of the best-known political names in the Hamilton County, Republican Ralph Winkler bested Democrat Charlie Luken in the race for the open probate court judgeship.

In the six other contested judicial races Tuesday, the Republicans won four while the Democrats won two – including one against an incumbent Republican.

With 553 of 555 precincts reporting, the unofficial vote count in the probate court judgeship was 53 percent for Winkler and 47 percent for Luken.

“I was a little surprised; I thought it would be a little closer,’’ said Winkler, who is currently a common pleas court judge. "Mr. Luken ran a great race and kudos to him. But I just had a great team behind me and a lot of volunteers and a lot of grassroots, so we pulled it out in the end."

Winkler is part of a political family that has been winning elections in Hamilton County for decades. His brother, Robert Winkler was re-elected to the Common Pleas Court Tuesday without opposition. His father, Ralph, served for many years as a judge, retiring as a judge on the First District Court of Appeals.

Winkler’s wife, Tracy, is Hamilton County clerk of courts; and his late mother, Cheryl, was a state representative and Green Township Trustee.

Luken, too, had a long resume – city council member in the 1970s and 1980s, one term in Congress, and, in 2001, he became the first directly-elected Cincinnati mayor. After serving in Congress, he spent years as a TV anchorman.

Luken’s father, Thomas, is a former council member, mayor and congressman. His uncle, the late James Luken, also served on city council.

In the other judicial races:

  • Two municipal court judges, Republican Russell Mock and Democrat Fanon Rucker, faced each other for an open seat on the First District Court of Appeals. Mock won with 59 percent of the unofficial vote.
  • In a Common Pleas Court race, Republican Pat Dinkelacker defeated Democrat John Mereness with 67.5 percent of the vote.
  • Common Pleas Court Judge Carl Stich Jr., an appointed Republican, was defeated by Pat Foley, a Democrat with 37 years of experience as a lawyer.
  • A Democratic Common Pleas Court Judge, Jerry Metz, first elected six years ago, held onto to his judgeship, defeating Republican Charles Miller with 52 percent of the vote.
  • In the Juvenile Court race, Republican John Williams held on to his seat with 53 percent of the vote. His opponent was civil rights lawyer Jennifer Branch, who represented Tracie Hunter in a contested election four years ago that Hunter eventually won. Williams was appointed to a vacant judgeship.
  • In the Domestic Relations Court race, Republican Amy Searcy, the former board of elections director who was appointed to the court this summer, defeated Democrat Ray Pater, who heads the Butler County Child Support Enforcement Agency. Searcy had 66 percent of the vote.
Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.