Friday, March 5, 2010

Nina Turner dodges the hype

Everyone had an opinion about state Sen. Nina Turner back in November: A county executive contender, if you liked Issue 6; a marked woman, if you didn’t. Then the filing deadline for the May 4 primary revealed the drama-free truth: She’s running for re-election to the state senate. Unopposed.

What happened? Well, first, we know for sure now that the black political old guard is declining in power. I’m mostly thinking of George Forbes, widely assumed to be the mastermind of the Call & Post’s infamous Aunt Jemima attack on Turner. That in-house slur didn’t just backfire, winning Turner new allies and reluctant defenders among the anti-Issue 6 crowd. It wasn’t just made ridiculous by the actual voting results, which showed that a slim majority in black communities supported 6.

The threat to ruin Turner’s career was also empty. It lacked follow-through. Forbes, in his prime, would’ve lined up a challenger to chase Turner through the primary, accusing her (however implausibly) of selling out black folks. Instead, Forbes ally Zack Reed took a look at running against her, then passed.

Another part of the anti-Issue 6 coalition looks weak: labor. Kenny Yuko, a hardcore pro-union state rep, also considered running against Turner, but decided to run for his House seat again. He must’ve looked at the map of Turner’s 25th district, and realized it was a bad place to try to re-fight the November reform battle. It includes four Cleveland wards and 15 East Side suburbs, many of which — Shaker Heights, South Euclid, Beachwood, Orange — strongly supported 6.

As for that early buzz about Turner for county executive, it wasn’t coming from her. Issue 6 supporters were dropping her name to reward her for standing up to Forbes. But Turner knew better than to overreach. She’s only been in the state Senate for a year and a half. She may well want to move up someday -- but her time on city council and as an aide to Mayor Mike White position her better for a run for Cleveland mayor when Frank Jackson retires. She’s better off to wait, gather experience, and let the grudges over county reform become old news.

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