Justin Bibb (D) defeated City Council President Kevin Kelley (D), to win the mayoral election in Cleveland, Ohio. This was the first mayoral election in Cleveland without an incumbent on the ballot since 2001.
Bibb, who is 34, will become the second-youngest mayor in Cleveland’s history. Describing his campaign, Bibb said, “now is the time for bold, new, dynamic, visionary leadership and not the failed politics and policies of the past.” Kelley, who has served on the city council since 2005, highlighted his experience, saying, “Every candidate will talk about change. The question is: who knows how to and who has a record of making change?”
Bibb’s victory marks the first time since the 1962 election of Ralph Locher (D) where Clevelanders have elected a mayor with no prior electoral experience.
Bibb received endorsements from former mayors Jane Campbell (D) and Michael White (D), who served from 2002 to 2006 and 1990 to 2002, respectively. He also received endorsements from Our Revolution Ohio and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).
Seventeen of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population held general elections for mayor on Nov. 2. In total, 28 top-100 cities are electing mayors in 2021. Heading into election day, 63 top-100 mayors were affiliated with the Democratic Party, 26 were affiliated with the Republican Party, four are independents, six identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, and one mayor has not responded to inquiries about his partisan affiliation.
Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley advanced from Cleveland, Ohio’s mayoral primary Tuesday night. Bibb led with 27.1% and Kelley had 19.4% as of 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Dennis Kucinich was third with 16.5%.
Mayor Frank Jackson (D) chose not to seek election to a fifth four-year term. November’s general election will be the first without a mayoral incumbent on the ballot in Cleveland in 20 years.
Jackson endorsed Kelley in the primary. Kelley is president of the Cleveland City Council and has served on the council since 2005. Several unions are among his other endorsers. Bibb is a chief strategy officer with a technology firm. His endorsers include Our Revolution Ohio and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Public safety and police oversight have been key issues in the race. Bibb supports and Kelley opposes the Community Police Commission and Police Oversight Initiative on the general election ballot. The initiative would, in part, create a Community Police Commission, which would serve as the final authority on whether certain disciplinary action against an officer is sufficient.
The primary election for Cleveland, Ohio, is on Sept. 14. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for Nov. 2. The filing deadline to run passed on June 16.
Candidates filed for mayor and the 17 wards of the city council. The general election will also include four seats on the Cleveland Municipal Court.
Seven candidates are running for the mayoral seat: Justin Bibb, Ross DiBello, Basheer Jones, Kevin Kelley, Dennis J. Kucinich, Zack Reed, and Sandra Williams. The race is nonpartisan, but all seven candidates identify as Democrats.
The incumbent, Frank Jackson, is not seeking re-election. Jackson was first elected in 2005 and is Cleveland’s longest-serving mayor to date. The 2021 election will mark the first mayoral election in Cleveland without an incumbent since 2001.
Cleveland is the second-largest city in Ohio and the 48th-largest city in the United States.
On July 7, Citizens for a Safer Cleveland submitted an additional 3,208 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for verification after the committee was short 384 of the 6,270 valid signatures needed to qualify for the Cleveland ballot in November.
On June 16, the committee announced that they had submitted about 13,000 signatures to the county board of elections. On June 25, the county board of elections announced that 5,886 of the submitted signatures were valid. The group had 15 additional days to collect enough valid signatures to make up the difference and qualify for the ballot.
The initiative would repeal and replace sections of the Cleveland City Charter concerning the organization and oversight of the Cleveland Police Department. It would grant the chief of police the authority to discipline police officers in any reasonably justifiable way, subject to subject to review by the Civilian Police Review Board and the Community Police Commission. The initiative would restructure the Office of Professional Standards to report to the Civilian Police Review Board rather than the executive head of the police department. The initiative would bar current or former police officers from serving as the administrator of the office and would require that the police chief (and the force at large) comply with any requests for information that the office makes within 30 days.
The initiative would also enact the following changes to the nine-member Civilian Police Review Board:
Require that two members of the board should be attorneys with experience defending victims of police brutality;
Transfer the power to remove board members from the executive head of the police department to the mayor;
Require that the board’s budget be equal to or greater than 1% of the budget allocated to the police department;
Grant the board the ability to initiate its own complaints against the police department;
Add a new requirement that the chief of police present “clear-and-convicting” evidence that the board’s disciplinary recommendations are erroneous if the chief does not want to comply with them; and
Add termination as the default disciplinary action for “bigoted content, slurs, or language.”
Lastly, the initiative would create the 13-member Community Police Commission. The duties of the Commission would include serving as the final authority over disciplinary actions of officers; interviewing and recommending candidates for police commander and inspector general; establishing and auditing police recruitment and training practices; and directing the investigations of the Civilian Police Review Board.
Ballotpedia is covering a selection of notable police-related ballot measures in 2021. In April, voters in Oak Park, Illinois, defeated a non-binding advisory question that advised the city to defund the police department. In May, voters in Austin, Texas approved a measure to establish the position of the Director of Police Oversight in the city charter. Voters in San Antonio, Texas, defeated a measure that would have repealed collective bargaining for police officers. Voters in Pittsburgh approved a measure to require police to knock on a door, announce their presence, and wait at least 15 seconds before entering a residence to execute a warrant. Allegheny County voters approved a measure to prohibit the solitary confinement of persons held in the Allegheny County Jail.