Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cleveland votes today

Cleveland residents go to the polls today for the city primary to choose among five candidates for mayor. Eight out of 19 wards will vote on city council candidates. (Find out where to vote and what ward you're in here. Polls are open 6:30 am to 7:30 pm.)

If you're voting, the big question is, what do you think of Mayor Frank Jackson's last four years? And if you don't like the job he's done, do you think any of the challengers can do better? (Here's my previous post about the TV and newspaper interviews with the candidates.)

I think pretty much everyone expects Jackson to finish first, so tomorrow night we'll be waiting to see who'll come in second and challenge Jackson in the general election -- and whether Jackson finishes so far ahead that everyone will write off the second round.

Here's what's happened in the biggest city council races since my post last month.

The three-way fight in Ward 14 (on the near West Side) has become a four-way fight. Councilmen Joe Santiago and Brian Cummins are battling for the seat with former councilman Nelson Cintron. Rick Nagin, Cintron's former aide, has gotten endorsements from Dennis Kucinich and the AFL-CIO. This is really interesting. One reason is that Nagin is a former chairman of the Ohio Communist Party and a frequent contributor to the Communist Party USA's newspaper, People's Weekly World. (He is a registered Democrat.)

Santiago hasn't campaigned much, and he skipped the City Club debate for this seat. I am really curious to see who survives the primary. Here's some analysis of this race from Henry Gomez at cleveland.com.

Zack Reed, running in the new Ward 2 (on the southeast side), is trying hard to stay on council. He brought in U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters from Los Angeles to campaign with him this weekend. But he's running in new territory because of redistricting, and his many opponents are using his two DUIs against him. He also can't use the word "re-elect" on his signs. The City Club debate for this ward was cringe-inducingly bad, judging by Gomez's account of it. The Plain Dealer endorsed Charlene Laster, a pharmacist and sister of a judge, saying Reed could "benefit from some time out of the limelight." But the Call & Post, the city's major black newspaper, endorsed Reed, saying he's earned another term at City Hall.

Jeff Johnson won both the Plain Dealer and Call & Post endorsements in Glenville's Ward 8, setting him up for a comeback 10 years after his conviction for extortion. "Johnson deserves a second chance," the Call & Post wrote. "He is smart and can be a great assert to some of the younger council members. Johnson insists he is humbler, wiser and less confrontational."

(This letter writer asked why the Plain Dealer editorial page chose to forgive Johnson for extortion and council president Martin Sweeney for a sexual harassment lawsuit, but not Reed for DUIs.)

In Ward 6 (East Side near Buckeye Road), social worker John Boyd got the Call & Post endorsement, despite having killed a man in 1973. The paper praised his "voice of strength" and called him "enthusiastic and energetic," while criticizing incumbent Mamie Mitchell as having "a very low profile." The Plain Dealer said almost the same thing about Mitchell, and praised Boyd, now a social worker, as "compelling proof of reincarnation after incarceration," but disliked his "abrasive style" and reminded readers of his rap sheet. The PD endorsed Darnell Brewer, a 33-year-old service coordinator.

Over in South Collinwood's Ward 10, former state Rep. Eugene Miller is the incumbent thanks to a switcheroo -- he and former councilman Roosevelt Coats tried to swap seats this April. But House Democrats chose Robin Belcher, an assistant prosecutor, instead of Coats. If endorsements are a guide, Miller might run into trouble holding onto his appointed seat. The Plain Dealer, without criticizing Miller, recommended probation officer Stephanie Pope for the council seat instead. The Call & Post gave Miller a backhanded endorsement, calling him "a hothead" but saying voters should elect him "in spite of his arrogance."

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