Frank Jackson and Zack Reed Win Cleveland Mayoral Primary; Jeff Johnson Concedes

click to enlarge Jeff Johnson talks with supporters at Glenville HQ (9/12/17). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Jeff Johnson talks with supporters at Glenville HQ (9/12/17).
Just after 11 p.m. at his Glenville campaign office, City Councilman Jeff Johnson conceded in the Cleveland Mayoral primaries.

The concession means that 12-year incumbent Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council challenger Zack Reed will advance to the November general elections.

With nearly all Cleveland precincts reporting, Jackson was the top vote-getter Tuesday. He secured roughly 39 percent of the vote. Reed gained on Jackson throughout the evening, and finished with 22 percent of the vote. Johnson, who began on Reed's heels, trailed Reed by more than 2,000 votes by evening's end. He tallied about 15 percent of the total.

Restaurateur Brandon Chrostowski finished fourth overall with an estimated 10 percent of the vote. Robert Kilo and Tony Madalone finished fifth and sixth.

Results are unofficial, but all signs point to a Jackson-Reed runoff in November.

After taking a walk with his wife Felicia, Johnson thanked his staff and his supporters (the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, the SEIU, the Amalgamated Transit Union) and said that his defeat was not the evening's biggest story.

"The bigger issue is change in Cleveland," he said. "If you're a 12-year incumbent, and you're at 38 percent... You put me and Zack together, and we're just a couple of points behind. The big story is that Frank is in trouble."

Johnson said that he and Reed, who have been allies on council, intend now to continue their alliance to take on Frank Jackson. Johnson said that he had not yet called Reed, but that he intended to support his colleague in whatever way he can.

"As of tonight, I am endorsing Zack Reed for Mayor of Cleveland," Johnson said. "I cannot be consistent in talking about the city's need for change and then sit this out. I'm supporting Zack Reed, and I'm asking that everyone who voted for me vote for him. We've fought together, we've been on the front lines together and now I will fight for him... I want you to absolutely understand, I am at peace because we did everything we could do. You guys have got to remember where I've been. I lost everything, so losing an election is nothing compared to what I lost before."

Reed, meanwhile, joined two dozen or so supporters at his campaign's watch party at Crop Bistro in Ohio City. Optimistic from the start, the councilman shared early absentee results with the crowd when he arrived around 8 p.m. "We keep this up, you're going to have a new mayor," he said to some claps.

As the hours ticked by the bursts of applause got louder as Reed's lead over Johnson grew (and when, as supporters killed time waiting for final numbers, the Indians closed out the Tigers for the team's 20th straight win). After enjoying some time in a private dining room, and after his second-place standing was confirmed with 80-percent of the vote in, Reed emerged shortly before 11 p.m. to a host of news cameras, hitting on some familiar campaign topics, promising to take his message across the city, and focusing on what he perceived as the incumbent mayor's vulnerability given the night's outcome.

"The people of Cleveland spoke loud and clear that they want a new mayor," Reed said, which isn't true yet, but after Tuesday night, Reed will get his chance to test that thesis one-on-one with Jackson come November.

click to enlarge Frank Jackson and Zack Reed Win Cleveland Mayoral Primary; Jeff Johnson Concedes
Vince Grzegorek / Scene

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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