Mayor Frank Jackson scored a huge but somewhat hollow victory tonight, winning 72 percent of the vote in a primary with extremely low turnout.
Jackson is at 24,085 votes, while former city councilman Bill Patmon has edged out businessman Robert Kilo for second place, 3,748 to 3,328, with all but one of the city's 345 precincts reporting.
That 72 percent to 11 percent spread cannot be encouraging for Patmon. But at least Cleveland will get a lively debate this fall with Patmon as Jackson's challenger. With his 12 years of experience on council, Patmon knows City Hall and knows how to campaign and make a case against an opponent. He's challenged the mayor on the city budget, the proposed port expansion, and leadership style. (Here is a profile I wrote about Patmon in 2001.)
If Kilo had finished second (which looked like a real possibility for much of tonight), the mayor's race would've been completely docile and uneventful -- at least, judging by Kilo's repeated praise for Jackson and vague message in the City Club debate last week. Kilo's disciplined businessman's approach to the campaign and his very religious message obviously appealed to a decent number of voters. But if Kilo had beaten the much more politically experienced Patmon, it also surely would have been proof that race can still be a deciding factor in Cleveland elections.
Instead, the biggest news is that a wide range of voters seem comfortable with Jackson, receptive to his steady but quiet leadership and thankful for his balanced budgets. On the other hand, Jackson and his challengers did not excite passion. Only about 33,000 people out of a city of 440,000 showed up to vote.
Here's a link to all of tonight's election results.