Some political insiders see the first-time candidate as an
“incumbent underdog,” mainly because he’s facing a strong
challenge from a well-known Democratic candidate, long-time
juvenile court prosecutor Lori Olender. Add in the
changes to a political campaign caused by the coronavirus
pandemic, and Judge Gonzalez knows he’s facing a battle.
“The traditional way of campaigning of festivals, door knocking,
parades and debate has gone out the window due to social
distancing regulations,” the judge said. “It’s been a very
challenging time fundraising and maintaining a presence in the
community as a public figure, as an elected official trying to
retain his seat. I’m pretty much an unknown commodity in my
Ohio’s governor appointed Judge González to replace Judge
Gene Zmuda in March of 2019, after Zmuda was elected to the
Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals. Prior to that, González
served as a magistrate in domestic relations court. The new
judge already has presided at seven jury trials, some of which
garnered media coverage. But judicial races are traditionally
low-key, commonly overshadowed by elections for president,
governor, and legislative seats.
“People ask me every day, ‘How’s it going?’” he said. “I don’t
know how to respond. It’s difficult to gauge. It’s a known fact
that many people get to the polls and they skip over the judges.
They don’t know anything about them and they don’t even vote.
You have that dynamic on top of everything else.”
However, Judge González credits what he calls “a very capable
campaign team” handling everything from social media to signs.
His all-volunteer team already has warned him the campaign “will
ratchet up” and “run him ragged.” He now calls the race “a
sprint” because early voting starts Oct. 6, 2020 and believes
the pandemic will make that a bigger factor.
“It’s moved up the timeline on some things that people think is
important for a variety of things you normally do a little
closer to the election,” he said, admitting name recognition
likely will be the deciding factor in the election for either
candidate during a coronavirus campaign.
While González and Ms. Olender are both first-time judicial
candidates but experienced litigants, he plans to point to his
experience on the bench as the main thing that sets him apart in
“It’ll be a year-and-a-half to two years judicial experience as
a judge and before that, four years as a magistrate, so it’s
almost like a full term as being a judge,” he pointed out.
“Being a magistrate, I handled a lot of the responsibilities of
being a judge—trials and dockets.”
Judge González was previously in private practice as an attorney
when he was sworn in as a magistrate. He spent dozen of his
15-year law career as a general practice attorney, much of that
handling family law and juvenile court cases. The other time he
spent as a staff attorney for Judge David Lewandowski. He
also spent a year as an attorney at Sandusky County Job and
The Findlay native is one of five siblings, the son of
Mexican-American migrant farmworkers who met in Laredo, Texas
and relocated to Northwest Ohio. His father later worked at
Cooper Tire as a millwright for more than 30 years. His mom
worked as a surgical assistant for a time, but spent most of her
life as a homemaker.
González received his bachelor’s
degree in criminal justice and masters of public administration
from Bowling Green State University. He earned a law
degree from the University of Toledo.
González did receive a public reprimand earlier this year from
the Ohio Supreme Court for ‘operating a motor vehicle while
intoxicated’. In Hancock County Common Pleas Court, Judge
González owned up to the incident, pleading guilty to a
misdemeanor DUI charge. He received a suspended jail sentence,
attended and completed a driver intervention program, a
victim-impact panel program, and had his driver’s license
suspended for a year.
“It was an unfortunate situation for me, because I know better.
I shouldn’t have been in that position,” he admitted. “I made a
mistake just by getting behind the wheel. It was a human moment,
that’s all I can say. I don’t think it defines me, nor should it
define me…; it’s there. All I can hope is that people are
willing to consider the fact it’s not me,” he said. “It’s a
situation that happened and a mistake on my part. Hopefully they
don’t hold it against me.”
Judge González stated he still carries the teachings of his
legal mentor with him to this day—the late juvenile court Judge
“He was a very good man to me. The very first day I worked in
Toledo and had moved up here, he came to see me without knowing
me,” he recalled. “That’s the kind of man he was. He knew I
didn’t know anyone and had no family in town, told me to come
see him if I needed anything. I owe that man and hope to
continue his legacy.”
Judge González has continued to maintain a friendship with
Mary Jane Flores following her husband’s death in 2003. She
is serving as one of his campaign co-chairs during the November
election. González raises his daughter with his wife.