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Cleveland Mayoral Contest Now Down to Two

September 15, 2021 by Dan McCue
Kevin Kelley (left) and Justin Bibb (right)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — After months of campaigning in a crowded field, two finalists emerged Tuesday night as the voters’ potential choice to become Cleveland’s next mayor. 

Justin Bibb, chief strategy officer with technology firm Urbanova, garnered 27.1% of the mayoral primary vote, while Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, received 19.4%.

The two now advance to the Nov. 2 general election in a battle to replace Mayor Frank Jackson, the longest-serving mayor in Cleveland’s history.

In fact, this is the first mayoral election in the city without an incumbent on the ballot since 2001. 

“Nearly 18 months ago, they said that we had to wait our turn,” said Bibb as he addressed his supporters Tuesday night. “They said we were too young. They said that we weren’t experienced enough. 

“But tonight, we showed you, by centering our campaign with the people, we shocked the political world in Cleveland,” he said.

Kelly, meanwhile, described the campaign heading into the primary as “a long journey.”

“It’s been a lot of hard work. We all know there are people who told us that we can’t win. We all know that there were people who said there was no way we’re going to get through the primary. But we did,” he continued.

“We did it because people believed in the message that we crafted together,” he added. “This is a message that we promoted that we will work hard and that the city of Cleveland is a Cleveland that we can all have if we work together.”

Seven candidates ran in the nonpartisan primary, with former Cleveland mayor and one-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich entering the race with the highest name recognition. In the end, he came in third in the contest, receiving 16.54% of the vote.

Zack Reed garnered 12.06% of the vote, followed by Basheer Jones (11.84%), Sandra Williams (11.43%), and attorney Ross DiBello (1.61%). 

Three of the candidates are currently elected officials, with Jones and Kelly serving on the city council, while Williams is a state senator.

Reed served for 17 years on the city council before running for mayor in 2017, and losing to Jackson 59.5% to 40.5% in the general election. 

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