Why on Earth is Marty Freaking Sweeney Endorsing Justin Bibb? And Why on Earth is Bibb Accepting?

click to enlarge Martin Sweeney addresses the Lakewood Democratic Club (3/29/18), - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
Sam Allard / Scene
Martin Sweeney addresses the Lakewood Democratic Club (3/29/18),

Marty Sweeney, the former Cleveland City Council President who groomed current Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and who recently weaseled his way back into local elected office—Marty Freaking Sweeney, folks, perhaps the richest and most enduring symbol of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party's rot—has endorsed Justin Bibb for Mayor.

“For the past ten months, Justin has shown he will listen to the concerns and ideas of residents and community stakeholders,” said Sweeney, in a statement provided by the Bibb campaign. “I met him over a year ago on my front porch and since then I’ve watched him crisscross the city taking hundreds of questions in backyards, on front porches and in virtual forums. Justin Bibb is ready to listen and lead on Day One.”

The Sweeney endorsement is a curious, in fact shocking, development for a number of reasons. In the first place, Sweeney is tribally affiliated with Kelley. They are both Irishmen of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party's old and corrupt school. Kelley was not only Sweeney's majority whip on city council, but his protégé and heir. It was Kelley who, alongside the frail and cowardly Bradys, conceived and orchestrated the plot to reinstall Sweeney on County Council earlier this year, a disgusting episode.

On the flipside, the Bibb campaign surely knows that Sweeney's endorsement matters very little from a vote-total perspective. It's possible they're sensitive to Kelley's Issue 24 critiques and see profit in gaining influential supporters on the white West Side, whomever they may be. But Bibb is also far ahead in the polls, has looked more assured in recent campaign appearances, and has built momentum in recent days with high-profile endorsements. For the campaign, the aim with the Sweeney endorsement is less to keep their foot on the gas and more to place it on Kelley's throat. It's about asserting dominance and gloating about it, having fun getting under his skin. Even your old pals are jumping ship.

This is not a particularly becoming look, but the Bibb team has reason to feel spicy. Kelley continues to patronize and belittle Bibb in candidate forums, not only criticizing his use of "buzzwords" but asking rhetorically whether or not Bibb knows how government works. (Bibb told Dan Moulthrop Wednesday that the biggest challenge of the campaign trail has been keeping his composure.)  Coupled with the Kelley campaign stunt yesterday, in which Kelley's team mocked Bibb's lawyer after he sent a cease and desist letter regarding Kelley's characterizations of Bibb's stance on Issue 24, the Bibb team probably wanted to send a message to Kelley in the shape of a giant middle finger.

Sweeney did the trick. He's too stupid to understand that his endorsement is mostly being used to taunt a former ally, and too self-interested not to leap at the prospect of allying with a presumed victor. (It's gross all around!) Because he likes feeling important, Sweeney gets to be Brutus, delivering what the Bibb campaign surely regards as a poetic dagger, turning the tables on Kelley by urging residents to "ignore the political rhetoric about experience."

“Justin Bibb and his team will bring the real change we need to tackle violent crime, poverty, housing and other major quality of life issues,” Sweeney said, in the statement. “It’s always been about safety and services and things have not changed. Justin is the right leader at the right time.”

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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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