Name Recognition, or Lack Thereof, Could be Big Factor in Cleveland Mayoral Primary

click to enlarge Dennis Kucinich electrifies the crowd at the Lakewood Women's Pavilion (3/29/2018). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Dennis Kucinich electrifies the crowd at the Lakewood Women's Pavilion (3/29/2018).

Dennis Kucinich has not formally declared his candidacy for Cleveland Mayor. He is nevertheless the candidate with whom locals are most familiar, a recent poll by Baldwin-Wallace University found. Seventy-eight percent of residents polled were either "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with the former mayor, longtime congressman and two-time presidential candidate. And Kucinich was the only candidate with whom a majority of those polled were "very familiar."

Others, like nonprofit executive Justin Bibb and West Side attorney Ross DiBello, are first-time candidates and are hardly known by the general public. Only 5% and 3% respectively, said they were "very familiar" with them.

The BW poll, the results of which were first reported by, was not of likely voters but of the electorate at large. It's true that Cleveland's off-year municipal elections are plagued by extremely low turnout and that voters have been reduced to apathy by years of poor leadership, but candidates will have to increase their publicity and shoe-leather campaigning if they intend to broaden their existing bases of support and command one of the top two spots in the September election and make it to the November runoff.

Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones, who officially announced his candidacy in an event Thursday afternoon, fared well in the poll. Twenty-seven percent of voters said they were very familiar with him and another 27% expressed some familiarity. He trailed only Kucinich and former councilman Zack Reed in overall name recognition.

City Council President Kevin Kelley, surprisingly, remains largely obscure to the vast majority of Clevelanders despite his high profile. Only 16% of voters said they were very familiar with him. Ditto State Rep. Sandra Williams, who formally launched her campaign for Mayor earlier this week. Only 13% of those polled were "very familiar" with her.

Mayor Frank Jackson announced that he will not be seeking a fifth term Thursday evening. The 2021 race can now be expected to heat up.

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