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Breaking Down The Race To Succeed Marcia Fudge In Congress

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge speaks at a press briefing at the White House, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik
Associated Press
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge speaks at a press briefing at the White House, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Washington.

Voters in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District have four months to make up their minds about who should replace Marcia Fudge, who is now President Joe Biden’s secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

ideastream’s Nick Castele talked with Morning Edition host Amy Eddings about the candidates running to fill her seat.

Former State Sen. Nina Turner is a candidate, and she made some splashes this week with some big endorsements. Tell me about those endorsements and what they mean for the race.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson endorsed Turner, and so did Blaine Griffin, who is the Ward 6 city councilman in Cleveland. Turner has a political history with Jackson. She was a member of city council during Jackson’s first term as mayor. And as a state senator she was a key supporter of the mayor’s schools transformation plan.

“I am indeed a daughter of Cleveland and I have deep roots in this community,” Turner told ideastream. “And having the endorsement of both Mayor Jackson and also of Councilman Blaine Griffin… it just validates that, that my roots are deep.”

Turner has a national profile now because she has been a leading supporter of Bernie Sanders’ two presidential campaigns. She’s been endorsed by several progressive members of Congress.

But Jackson and Griffin are two prominent local Democratic figures, and that local element is important for Turner because she is running against the current chair of the county Democratic Party, Shontel Brown, who has a lot of local support of her own.

How has Brown been campaigning so far?

Brown has been collecting a lot of endorsements from elected officials around Northeast Ohio. That includes folks like Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, mayors in some southeast side Cleveland suburbs — which is where Brown is from. She’s a former Warrensville Heights city council member and she represents that area, as well as others, on Cuyahoga County Council.

Here’s how she introduced herself at a recent forum put together by the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus (CCPC).

“Those who have worked with me in local government know that I look to make headway, not headlines,” Brown said. “And I am a responsive leader who is attentive to our community, and I am an effective coalition builder.”

She’s also been pitching herself as a future ally of the Biden-Harris administration, saying that she won’t be, in her words, “a thorn” in their side.

All right, so we’ve got Nina Turner and we have Shontel Brown, but they’re not the only candidates in this very crowded race. Tell me about the others.

Another one is former city councilman Jeff Johnson. He ran for Cleveland mayor in 2017. He now works at Cleveland Housing Court.

“I will not be the candidate in this race with the most money or the most endorsements,” Johnson told the CCPC. “But I am the one most prepared, most ready and able to go to Capitol Hill and hit the ground running from day one.”

Another candidate is Shirley Smith. She’s a former state senator. She’s been a strong opponent of the death penalty in Ohio and has served on the Ohio parole board.

Here she is outlining some of her platform at that progressive caucus forum:

“Bringing in job creation, public and private partnerships, and also to protect our natural resources, our lakes, our parks and our arts,” Smith said.

But there are a lot of other candidates in the mix. Former State Rep. John Barnes has a fundraising committee in this race. Another former state rep, Bryan Flannery, has been participating in these forums. He officially launched his bid this week.

And there’s also a political newcomer, a Navy veteran named Tariq Shabazz. He’s running as well.

Now, those are the Democratic candidates, and this is a very heavily Democratic district, so the August 3 primary carries a lot of weight.

But there is a Republican in the race, too — Laverne Jones Gore. She ran for the seat in 2020, and the county Republican Party has scheduled a launch party for her next week.

Let's talk timeline here. A primary in August, a general election in November. That means part of Cleveland and Akron are without a House member for most of the year. 

That's right. House Democrats already had a pretty narrow majority. Without Marcia Fudge, it’s even thinner. And during a pretty important time, the first year of the Biden administration.

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.