Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Meanwhile, Cleveland votes in 5 weeks

Seems like all the political action's been at the county this year, thanks to the corruption investigation, Medical Mart, and dueling reform plans. But Cleveland's primary election is only 35 days away, and it's just starting to attract attention.

City voters will narrow down the mayor's race to two candidates on Sept. 8, and eight of the city's 19 wards will have city council primaries.

That day, we'll find out which challenger will survive to take on Frank Jackson in November, and the size of the Jackson and anti-Jackson vote totals. (I simply cannot imagine a late-breaking scandal so ruinous that it could knock the mayor out of finishing first or second.)

Here are the websites of the candidates running against Jackson: Bill Patmon, Laverne Jones Gore, Kimberly Brown, and Robert Kilo. My money is on Patmon to make it through the primary. His 12 years on city council give him some name recognition and the best credentials in the race. (He's also tweeting.)

For the city council races, the best source is Plain Dealer reporter Henry Gomez's Inside Cleveland City Hall blog. Though little of his reporting has made the paper's print edition, Gomez is working hard covering those eight primaries. Here's a complete set of links to his coverage so far. (And here's a ward map, if it helps you follow along. The wards with a primary are 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14 and 18.)

The most intense race is in Ward 14, where councilmen Joe Santiago and Brian Cummins are running against each other thanks to redistricting, and a former councilman, Nelson Cintron, is trying to make a comeback. The near West Side ward includes Clark-Fulton, a neighborhood with a lot of Hispanic residents. Cummins hopes Santiago is weakened by the controversies during his term on council: he supported bars that people living nearby wanted shut down. Cintron, whom Santiago unseated in 2005, joined in the recall effort against his archrival two years ago.

The strangest race is in Ward 6, a weirdly gerrymandered East Side ward that includes the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. Incumbent Mamie Mitchell is trying to fend off four challengers, a couple of whom have rap sheets. Her feistiest challenger is John Boyd, who murdered a man while robbing a gambling house in 1973, when he was 16. She defeated him in a special election last year. Another challenger, Alvin Thompson, was convicted of gross sexual imposition involving his ex-wife in 1999. He says he didn't do it, and showed Plain Dealer reporters a doctor's note suggesting he was impotent and thus incapable of the crime.

The most dramatic comeback attempt is in Glenville's Ward 8, where former state senator and city councilman Jeff Johnson is trying to return to politics 10 years after going to prison on an extortion conviction. He's one of three candidates challenging Shari Cloud, who was appointed to the council seat a few months ago, when Sabra Pierce Scott resigned. She'll have support from council president Martin Sweeney. Roldo Bartimole recently wrote about his memories of Johnson and suggested he could add "sparkle" and "vision" to city council.

Speaking of big personalities, Zack Reed is running in a new ward -- Ward 2 in the city's southeast -- trying to stay on council even though his old ward got sliced up in redistricting. Six others want the job too. It's an open seat, because former councilman Robert White was convicted of bribery, and the guy appointed to replace him, Nathaniel Wilkes, isn't running. Wilkes won't endorse Reed, which will help keep the race competitive.

Lots of people want to represent South Collinwood's Ward 10. Former state Rep. Eugene Miller, who was appointed when Roosevelt Coats resigned this year, faces six challengers. Longtime councilman Ken Johnson and council president Martin Sweeney each face two opponents, and one-term incumbent Phyllis Cleveland has three.

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