The three top-tier Democratic candidates for Cuyahoga County executive met for a public forum Jan. 26. Tim Russo, candidate for Cuyahoga County executive, was not invited.
“I’ve never seen a supposed ‘frontrunner’ so terrified of an ex-offender on his ballot in my entire life,” Russo wrote of Armond Budish, the favored candidate of much of the local punditry in this race. The “ex-offender” comment refers to Russo’s standing as a convicted felon (he was charged with importuning and dissemination of harmful matter to juveniles in 2001). His recent blog post included a “Blingee” .gif of Budish wearing a Santa hat and a gold chain reading: “Gangsta.”
Anyway, Budish was joined at the forum by former County Sheriff Bob Reid and current State Sen. Shirley Smith, who will likely garner second- and third-place vote tallies behind Budish in the May primary. Russo was not there because, according to the party’s executive director, Nick Martin, he isn’t a registered Democrat. The simplest of public records searches reveals that Russo is, indeed, registered as a Democrat in Cuyahoga County.
But the established media narrative should never be taken for granted, even if it's Cuyahoga County we're talking about. “I don't think anyone knows, when they walk into a voting booth, what 'Budish' is. They probably think it's some sort of tree,” Russo tells Scene. Who knows? Maybe Budish is a local species of tree. Apart from the Jan. 26 forum, the Beachwood candidate isn't making too many public appearances — certainly none where he might have the chance to face Russo.
The odd tactics of getting rid of Russo continued. His invitation to an NAACP-sponsored debate was rescinded. Later, the NAACP reinvited Russo. Later still, the NAACP canceled the event, citing the nasty weather. (The whole thing sounds like a douchey high school lunch table, really.)
“I was looking forward to it,” Russo says. “It would have been the only time I was gonna sit across the stage from Budish.”