State Rep. Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington) said he will run in the May 8 primary election to become the Republican candidate for Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge.

The position will be open because Judge David E. Cain is barred by an age restriction from seeking re-election this fall.

The likely opponent for Hughes is Democrat Karen Phipps, a Columbus defense lawyer. Both have obtained petitions from the Franklin County Board of Elections, and Phipps confirmed Jan. 18 that she would run as a Democrat.

The filing deadline for the primary election is Feb. 7. The winners of each party’s primary will face off in the Nov. 6 general election. The fall race is nonpartisan and party affiliation will not accompany the candidates’ names on ballots.

Hughes, 53, represents the 24th Ohio House District, which includes much of Hilliard, Upper Arlington and west Columbus.

He began his government career in common-pleas court as a bailiff court constable, serving from 1987 to 1994. He later was an assistant prosecutor for Columbus and Franklin County for more than seven years before going into private practice.

Hughes has been a state legislator since 2000 but was not facing term limits this year.

“I believe that my experiences as a state legislator and my extensive legal background in both the public and private sectors will greatly benefit the people of Franklin County,” Hughes said in a statement Jan. 17.

Phipps, 52, of northwest Columbus has been a defense lawyer in private practice since 2004.

Her most recent high-profile defendant was Marctarius Grace, who was sentenced in September to life without chance of parole for a gang-related shooting in which he killed a 7-year-old boy.

“I can bring to the bench 13 years of trial experience,” she said. “I also have a good working relationship with every attorney I’ve ever worked with.”

Democratic legislative candidates have had little success challenging Hughes, a tough campaigner with a well-known name dating to when his father was in the legislature.

Hughes’ decision not to seek re-election to the 24th District likely will make it one of the top targets for Democrats in November.

Those who could vie for the seat include Democrats Mary Relotto of Columbus, Mike Schadek of Upper Arlington and Allison Russo of Upper Arlington, and Republican Erik Yassenoff of Upper Arlington.

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