Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quiet mayor wins landslide; Jeff Johnson's comeback complete; will Sweeney hold on as council president?

He is who he is, and that's fine with Cleveland voters: Mayor Frank Jackson, the quiet and workmanlike mayor, buried his challenger in a landslide yesterday, winning 78% of the vote.

It's been interesting, in the last year, to watch business and media elites accept the soft-spoken, unambitious, competent mayor and shed their yearning for a pulpit-pounding, charismatic strongman mayor (like, say, Akron's Don Plusquellic). Last week at the City Club debate, former councilman Bill Patmon did his best to project himself as the forceful-mayor type, to no avail. Jackson held his ground, explaining details of his work to deliver services and trim the budget.

Patmon may be right that Jackson will soon have to carry out the sort of sweeping budget cuts he campaigned on having avoided -- Henry Gomez predicts as much in the Plain Dealer today -- but voters trust Jackson to make those decisions. Meanwhile, the people who want mayors to use the bully pulpit to rally the region can turn their attention to who the first county executive will be.

In Glenville's Ward 8, voters returned Jeff Johnson to city council, 20 years after he left it to become a state senator, and 10 years after he left the state senate to serve a prison term for extortion. Johnson worked his way back to the public's trust by serving in Jane Campbell's administration and working for the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. Now, it seems, his rehabilitation is complete. (To read Cleveland Magazine's 1999 profile, "The Rise and Fall of Jeff Johnson," click here.)

Now, the political action at City Hall shifts to the council presidency. Johnson's election, and Zack Reed and Brian Cummins' victories in spite of redistricting, weaken Martin Sweeney's hold on the job. He and rival Matt Zone are competing for the 10 of 19 votes needed to be elected leader. The PD's Gomez has the news on this contest -- he reports that Sweeney got his council colleagues together at the Lancer Steakhouse last night, no doubt to try to consolidate support. A caucus vote on the presidency should come tomorrow; here's Gomez's handicapping.

Update, 11/5: Sweeney won.

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