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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Here are your Eight Official Candidates for Mayor of Cleveland

Posted By on Thu, Jun 17, 2021 at 10:06 AM

click to enlarge Only one can succeed Frank Jackson. - CLEVELAND CITY HALL, ERIK DROST/FLICKRCC
  • Cleveland City Hall, Erik Drost/FlickrCC
  • Only one can succeed Frank Jackson.

With the filing deadline now in the rearview, eight candidates for Cleveland mayor remain. The seven men and one woman below managed to gather at least 3,000 signatures and will appear on the Sept. 14 primary ballot. Only two will advance to the November general election. And only one will succeed Mayor Frank Jackson.

You've heard many of their names before, but here's a refresher, now that the field has firmed up. 



Justin Bibb - 34-year-old non-profit executive, Mt. Pleasant born and raised, touts both his lived and professional experience and represents perhaps the furthest tonal departure from Frank Jackson. Big on innovation, but stresses need for basic competency in city's administrative duties. As first-time candidate, knock on him tends to be his lack of political experience. Campaign slogan, "Cleveland can't wait," communicates need for urgency after lethargy of Jackson. Alum of KeyBank and nonprofit Urbanova. Corporate vibes. Extremely popular among educated millennials and zoomers.     

Ross DiBello - Passionate, if soft-spoken, attorney from West Park. Campaign activity has been highly concentrated on far west side. Ideologically progressive. Champion of procedural reforms to enhance "people power" at City Hall. Undeniable long shot, but has committed team of young, motivated volunteers. Campaign talking points center on issues of democracy building and scourge of money in politics. With extensive legal background, has clear understanding of failings of criminal justice system, and is able to connect dots between those failings and Cleveland's crushing poverty.

Basheer Jones - Ward 7 Councilman. Race's premier orator. Can fire up a crowd with ease. In lone council term — he narrowly defeated TJ Dow in 2017 — was unafraid to stake out lonely positions. Tireless advocate for Black folks and youth. Alliances, business practices and temperament have made him divisive figure in Ward 7, (constituents either adore or despise him), and initial campaign finance irregularities might betoken trouble.   

Kevin Kelley - City Council President. Old Brooklyn resident. Former social worker yanked to dark side by forces unknown. Backed by building and construction trades and corporate donors. Enormous campaign war chest. Of counsel at Porter Wright. Regarded with supreme distaste by many for his leading role in the anti-democratic actions of city council during his tenure. Has demonstrated repeatedly that he'll work harder for guys like Len Komoroski and Scott Wolstein than any resident of Cleveland. 

Dennis Kucinich - Former mayor, congressman, two-time presidential candidate. Disparaged as lefty kook, but launched campaign with public safety platform that included hiring 400 new police officers. Savvy (i.e. opportunistic) campaigner and charismatic debater. Lost Ohio gubernatorial primary in 2018 to Richard Cordray. Reviled for paid contributions to Fox News and defense of Syria's Bashar Al-Assad. Idiosyncratic ideology that defies traditional political spectrum. Public safety platform also includes new city division of peace, for example. Ardent environmentalist. Would be Cleveland's oldest mayor of all-time. Campaign coincides with publication of Muny Light memoir. 

Zack Reed - Former Mt. Pleasant councilman and 2017 mayoral candidate. Lost in landslide to Frank Jackson. Terrific slogan in 2017: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." Has failed to distinguish himself this time around, but remains proponent of government transparency and openness at City Hall. Most recently employed as minority outreach guy for Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Strong base on city's southeast side. Tremendous wardrobe.

Landry Simmons - 52-year-old County Sheriff's Deputy. West Park Resident. Republican. Aggressively pro-police and anti-crime. Platform includes abolishing the Consent Decree.

Sandra Williams - Veteran legislator and only woman in the race. Would be Cleveland's first Black female mayor. Quietly gathering institutional support. Represents closest thing to continuation of Frank Jackson leadership style: steady, experienced, deferential. Will be dogged by central role in HB6 scandal. Williams was one of bill's co-sponsors and proposed key decoupling amendment on FirstEnergy's behalf. 

Candidates no longer in the race: Dick Knoth, Arthur O'Kostendt, Latorya Witcher, Lee Wilson

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