Blaine Griffin Endorses Kelley in Cleveland Mayor's Race, Council Presidency in his Crosshairs

click to enlarge Blaine Griffin (R), announced his endorsement of Kevin Kelley outside the DREAM mural at E. 110th and Woodland, (9/16/21). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
Sam Allard / Scene
Blaine Griffin (R), announced his endorsement of Kevin Kelley outside the DREAM mural at E. 110th and Woodland, (9/16/21).

Standing before the DREAM mural at E. 110th Street and Woodland Avenue and decked out in an autumnal suit-and-tie combo, Ward 6 councilman Blaine Griffin announced his endorsement of City Council President Kevin Kelley in the Cleveland mayoral race. Griffin, who has served on council's leadership team under Kelley, is widely considered the favorite to succeed Kelley as council president if Kelley wins the November runoff against Justin Bibb.

Griffin said that Ward 6, like much of Cleveland, amounted to a "Dickensian model" of city living, with the best of times and the worst of times in close proximity. He said that he and Kelley shared similar values and that he trusted Kelley's background when facing the challenges of struggling neighborhoods.

"I've stood shoulder to shoulder with this gentleman to deal with some of the most complex and vexing issues in the city's history," Griffin said. "Issues like lead poisoning, infant mortality, racism being a public health crisis." He said that he and Kelley had collaborated on providing resources to the police to fight violent crime, on resurfacing roads, and on securing funding for housing development.

"I have a trust factor with [Kelley] that I really want everyone to know," he said.

Kelley said that Griffin's endorsement was a "giant step forward" in his quest to become mayor and said that he and Griffin shared a similar philosophy about public service: "We do the work and let the work speak for itself. We're not great at looking for cameras and promoting ourselves, but we are great at getting stuff done." He said that words like 'collaboration' and 'transformation' were effective political talking points, but much harder to accomplish in practice. 

"Building bridges sounds great," he said, "but try building a bridge to HUD if you've never done it before."

When questioned about his poor performance on the predominantly Black east side in Tuesday's primary, Kelley maintained that it was because of his philosophy — getting stuff done quietly — that many voters weren't familiar with his name and record.

"My job between now and November is to get people to know who I am," he said. "Blaine's endorsement comes with credibility. The fact that someone of his character and integrity and work ethic thinks I'm the right person for this job speaks volumes." 

Kelley did not hide the fact that he was expecting Griffin to serve as council president if he is elected mayor. He said he intended to continue working "shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm" with Griffin, who would "hopefully" be serving in Kelley's current role. 

Griffin's main competitor for that leadership post is Ward 3 councilman Kerry McCormack, who has endorsed Justin Bibb. City Council is likely to maintain its custom of racial balance between the mayor and council president, so Bibb's victory would complicate Griffin's designs. When questioned briefly after the press conference on these matters, Griffin said he had nothing but respect for Kerry.

"I love little Kerry. That's my dude," Griffin said, "but I'm a competitor and I'm here to fight. I think I'm in good shape, but it will be a challenge. At the end of the day, we all just want a good, strong unified council." 

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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