The Wolsteins, Tony George and Other Big Donors to Mayoral Challengers Jeff Johnson and Zack Reed

click to enlarge Zack Reed, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Zack Reed, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
City Councilmen Jeff Johnson and Zack Reed likely pose the greatest threat to Mayor Frank Jackson in the upcoming mayoral election. But like all the other challengers in the race, their coffers pale in comparison to Jackson's mountainous war chest. Still, Johnson and Reed both have managed to elicit big-money support from a few well-known local contributors.

Reed, who reported contributions of $57,350 in his semiannual campaign finance report, received enormous support from the Wolstein family. He received two maximum individual contributions of $5,000 from Jillian Wolstein. Her husband, the developer Scott Wolstein, kicked in $1,500. At Reed's only fundraiser in March, Jillian gave an additional $1,500.

(The filings are not yet audited, so one or more of Jillian Wolstein's contributions may have been entered in error. But as it stands, they far exceed the individual limit of $5,000, the new cap imposed by City Council in 2016. The County Board of Elections told Scene bluntly that they really don't care about these caps. Their office is paid by the County and conduct audits under Secretary of State regulations. The campaign caps are a City Charter issue, and therefore cap violations would have to be enforced through the city. A Board of Elections spokesperson said that in their auditing process, they'd likely verify the source of the checks but — to paraphrase — no one around here gives much of a shit.)  

Tony George, the local businessman and father of Town Hall owner Bobby George, gave the maximum $5,000 to Reed. He, too, gave an additional contribution at the March fundraiser, writing a check for $500. Reed also received $4,000 in separate contributions from the Chamoun family: Fady Chamoun, who owns the Aladdin's restaurant chain, and Fares Chamoun, the Aladdin's CFO. Fady wrote a $250 check at the March fundraiser as well.

Reed's other big contributor was Herb Washington, whose company H.L.W. Fast Track Inc., owns more than 20 McDonald's franchises in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Washington gave Reed $4,000 in two contributions.

click to enlarge Jeff Johnson - Photo by Peter Larson
Photo by Peter Larson
Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson reported slightly less than Reed in his campaign finance filing. His total contributions for the first half of 2017 were $55,540.

He received the maximum individual contribution of $5,000 from Lance Johnson, from Bonita Springs, Fla.; Tony George (who signed the check as Thomas George, but lists the same address as the Thomas Tony George who gave to Reed); and April Boise, a corporate lawyer in Bloomfield, Michigan.

Johnson also received two $2,500 donations (for a total of $5,000) from Cleveland's Rajanikant Patel; the Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services President Willie Austin; and Gina Fayne, the former assistant of councilwoman Fannie Lewis and wife of Arthur Fayne, Lewis's one-time protege.

SEIU District 1199 gave Johnson $5,000 and an additional $2,400 in in-kind contributions, noted in the report as "use of staff." (Johnson has received SEIU's official endorsement.) And the Friends of Anthony Hairston donated $1,000 to Johnson. Hairston is a current Cuyahoga County Councilman and one of 10 candidates for the Ward 10 City Council seat that Johnson is vacating. Former City Councilman Eugene Miller, who was defeated by Johnson after former Council President Marty Sweeney's controversial re-districting in 2013, is also running for that seat.

Both Reed and Johnson, along with the other mayoral contenders and Mayor Frank Jackson, will appear in an August 25 primary debate, hosted by the City Club at CSU.