Luken, Winkler to battle for probate court judgeship

Jan 14, 2014

A showdown this fall between two of the most potent political names in Hamilton County is coming this fall when Democrat Charlie Luken takes on Repubican Ralph E. "Ted" Winkler for a probate court judgeship.

Both come from families with decades-long track records of winning elections in Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Luken - a former Cincinnati mayor and one-term congressman - filed petitions with the Hamilton County Board of Elections Tuesday to run for the probate court seat of Judge James Cissell, who can't run for re-election because of Ohio's judicial age limit law.

Winkler, a common pleas court judge with 15 years experience on the bench, hasn't filed his petitions yet. But Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Alex Triantafilou said Winkler has already been endorsed by the party for Cissell's seat.

The 62-year-old Luken served on city council in the 1980s. He became mayor under the "top vote-getter" system in 1983 and remained in the mayor's office until he was elected to Congress in 1990.

Luken served one two-year term in Congress before deciding not to run for re-election. He returned to Cincinnati and became a news anchor for WLWT (channel 5) for several years.

Then, in 2001, he ran in Cincinnati's first direct election for mayor and defeated another WLWT news anchor, Courtis Fuller. After serving a four-year term, he left to practice law and become a lobbyist.

His father, Tom Luken, served on council and as mayor, and held the First Congressional District seat before his son replaced him in 1990. Charlie Luken's uncle, James Luken, was a city council member in the 1960s and 1970s.

Most recently, Charlie Luken served as a close adviser to John Cranley in Cranley's successful run for Cincinnati mayor.

Winkler comes from a family that has been winning elections in Hamilton County for decades.

His wife, Tracy, is the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts. His brother, Robert Winkler, is also a common pleas court judge.

His father, Ralph Winkler, served many years on the bench, retiring as a judge on the Ohio First District Court of Appeals. His late mother, Cheryl Winkler, was a Green Township trustee and a state representative.

The job pays $121,350 a year. It is the court where estates are filed, mental health cases are heard and where marriage licenses are issues. It also deals with adoptions.