New Campaign Finance Reports Show Whose Money is Backing Cleveland Mayoral Candidates

click to enlarge Basheer Jones speaks at mayoral forum in Jefferson Park, (7/8/21). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Basheer Jones speaks at mayoral forum in Jefferson Park, (7/8/21).

Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones raised nearly $400,000 in the first half of 2021 in his bid to become Mayor of Cleveland, while attorney Ross DiBello brought in only $5,600. City Council President Kevin Kelley spent more, and has more on hand, than any of his six opponents, and Dennis Kucinich, who's considered by many to be the race's frontrunner, has spent less than everyone but DiBello.

The seven Cleveland mayoral candidates submitted their semi-annual campaign finance reports to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Friday, and though they remain unaudited, they convey much information about the candidates and their campaigns: in particular, who's backing them and for how much.

Kelley remains the race's richest combatant — he has more than $500,000 on hand — but raised less than both Basheer Jones and Justin Bibb during the reporting period, which is likely to represent the bulk of fundraising for most candidates before the September primaries. Jones raised $363,000 and Bibb raised $242,000 compared to Kelley's $213,00.

The rest of the field was far behind these top three. Zack Reed, relying on old supporters, including Tony and Bobby George, Jason Lucarelli, and a number of representatives from the Perkins and Cifani families of Perk Construction, raised $137,000. Sandra Williams raised $96,000. Dennis Kucinich raised only $38,000.

Kelley remains the favored candidate among Cleveland's ruling class. Albert and Audrey Ratner each donated $5,000 to Kelley, as did Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam. The Indians' Paul Dolan chipped in $500 for good measure. Dan Gilbert, Len Komoroski and other executives affiliated with the Cavs have donated to Kelley in the past. Kelley's median contribution appeared to be highest among all candidates, with 18 individual contributions of $5,000. The largest single donation, the maximum $7,500 for political action committees, came from the Cleveland Firefighters Association. Dan and Dona Brady, the former local political power couple who are indebted to Kelley for his orchestration of the recent Martin Sweeney county council maneuver, each gave Kelley $2,500 from their respective political action committees.

If Kelley secured high-dollar donations from local elites, Basheer Jones did the same from contributors out of state. Jones actually eclipsed Kelley in the number of maximum individual contributions, with 20 supporters donating $5,000. Tony, Kristine and Bobby George and Jason and Sam Lucarelli were joined by immigrant developers Lemma Getachew and Guernet Indale as Jones' local max contributors. But the rest came from much further afield: Rana Malas of Laguna Beach, California; Ihsan Saleem and Tathiana Tanzey of Atlanta; Kofi Rashid of Decatur, Georgia; Omar Karim and Mohammad Khokhar of Washington D.C.; Muhammad Jami, Job Rushdan, Ibrahim Elrayah and Troy Carson of Maryland — all donated the max. Jones also received numerous donations between $2,000 and $5,000 from out-of-state contributors, which helps explain his massive haul.

Unlike Kelley and Jones, for whom contributions of $500 and $1,000 were the norm, Justin Bibb skewed lower, with a broader range of local supporters giving $25, $50 and $100. Many donated at that level on a monthly basis. Bibb received seven maximum individual contributions of $5,000: Fred Bidwell, the philanthropist and art collector who now calls Hingetown home; Jim and Susan Clifton of McLean, Virginia; Adelbert Marous of Marous Brothers Construction; Scott Mueller of Dealer Tire; Michael Cristal of Shaker Heights and Charles Cosgrove. Bibb also netted contributions from multiple DiGeronimos of DiGeronimo Construction and from Bo Knez, the omnipresent housing developer on Cleveland's near west side who also donated to Kevin Kelley.

Sandra Williams received a number of small dollar donations, but the lion's share of her fundraising arrived courtesy of labor unions and Columbus-based political action committees. Williams enjoys widespread support from her colleagues at the Ohio Statehouse and her report reflected it. The Friends of Armond Budish and Medical Mutual PACs each donated $5,000, the highest contributions for Williams. Nina Turner gave Williams $1,000 in a personal contribution. FirstEnergy does not appear on Williams' filing, but Duke Energy Corporation donated $500 via its PAC. 

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.