Question: What do several career politicians, a graphic designer, a blogger and a retired nurse have in common?
Answer: They’re all vying for a spot on Cuyahoga County’s new 11-member council.
The deadline for partisan candidates to file petitions occurred at 4 p.m. on June 24, and with the list of candidates at about 90, it’s now time to see how they will get their messages across and attempt to snag voters in their respective districts.
Independent candidates have until Sept. 6 to file petitions to run for county council.
The primary for Cuyahoga County Council and executive is Sept. 7. The winners will then face off in the general election in November.
This a historic time for all of the candidates, as they are the inaugural group running for the newly created county council. Last fall, residents voted to adopt a new county charter that will shift from a three-person commissioner system to one executive and 11 council members representing each district.
Many of the candidates who have filed petitions for council see this as an opportunity for the county to start fresh. Cuyahoga County has had a “good old boys” reputation for years, and recent corruption scandals have left the region shaken.
Almost all of the candidates for county council include an end to corruption as part of their platform. Economic development is also a popular talking point. In general, county council candidates state that they want to unleash the region’s potential as a center for business, research, health care and education.
In District 1, Nicole Daily Jones recently received an endorsement from the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Among her Democratic opponents in the race are attorney James French, who recently served on the charter-review commission in Westlake, and Dennis Lambert, former councilman of Fairview Park.
Republicans have an opportunity to fare well in District 1, which includes Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River, Westlake and all but Precinct D of Olmsted Township. Republican Dave Greenspan is a transplant who was actively involved in county reform while living in Georgia. Brian Hurtuk is a former councilman in Rocky River. Paul Daley was with the prosecutor’s office for 25 years.
District 1 also has one Libertarian in the race, Ryan McGilvray, who previously had declared himself a Republican.
District 2 candidates include Democrats Tom Jordan and Dale Miller. Jordan is the community development director for North Royalton and was previously the planning and development director in Lakewood. Miller announced in February that he would step down from his Ohio Senate seat to seek District 2 council post.
John Zappala, the lone Republican running in District 2, is a small business owner and a first-time political candidate.
District 2 encompasses Brook Park, Lakewood, and Cleveland Wards 18 and 19.
District 3 promises to be one of the most interesting council races, as it features a number of candidates with strong ties to the city of Cleveland. An all-Cleveland district, it encompasses Wards 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
Faouzi Baddour is precinct chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Nelson Cintron Jr. was a Cleveland city councilman for two terms but lost reelection in 2005. A win in District 3 could reinstate Cintron’s stature in the region. A Puerto Rican, he could attract the Latino vote in District 3.
Former Ohio State Senator Dan Brady, a Democrat, served three terms on Cleveland City Council and acted as a special advisor to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson concerning Cleveland Public Power System. The established Brady is likely to be one of the favorites in the District 3 race, along with Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc. Ronayne has spearheaded efforts to pool University Circle’s cultural, medical and academic strengths to create a destination of choice in Cleveland. Previously, Ronayne served as chief of staff and chief development officer for the city of Cleveland under former Mayor Jane Campbell.
District 4, which includes Parma, Parma Heights, Brooklyn, Seven Hills and Linndale, has an even amount of Democratic and Republican candidates for council and a fair mix of established politicians and novices. Chuck Germana, a Democrat, is presently the president of Parma Council and has been endorsed by the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. His Democratic opponents in District 4 include Matt Bolek, a graphic designer and literacy advocate. Although he has no previous political experience, Bolek states he has “a passion for social justice and local government,” and he often posts regarding county-related issues on Cleveland.com. Barbara Anne Ferris, also a Democrat, is president of the International Women’s Democracy Center, an organization that provides training and education to help women be decision-makers.
Arlene McNamara, a Republican running in District 4, is a retired nurse and a first-time politician who saw the new county council as an opportunity to make a difference in the region.
Candidates in District 5 include Democrats Ann Marie Donegan, council pro tempore for Olmsted Falls, and Mike Piepsny, head of the Cleveland Tenants Organization. Piepsny has been endorsed by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. The cities of Berea, Middleburg Heights, North Royalton, Olmsted Falls, Strongsville and Precinct D in Olmsted Township comprise District 5.
Candidates in District 6 likely face the biggest challenge, as their district cuts a broad swath across eastern, southern and southwestern Cuyahoga County. Bentleyville, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Brooklyn Heights, Chagrin Falls, Chagrin Falls Township, Cuyahoga Heights, Gates Mills, Glenwillow, Highland Heights, Hunting Valley, Independence, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Moreland Hills, Newburgh Heights, Oakwood, Pepper Pike, Solon, Valley View and Walton Hills comprise District 6.
Such a big territory will make it difficult for candidates to boast name recognition. For example, Democrat Frederick Taft is a councilman in the eastern suburb of Pepper Pike, but he is more than likely a political unknown to voters in Independence or Brooklyn Heights. Republican candidate Jim Crooks has been elected three times to Independence City Council. He is running on a traditionally conservative platform of limited government and fiscal restraint. Another Republican in the race for District 6 is Highland Heights Councilman Ed Hargate. He will need to create a strong presence in faraway cities like Brooklyn Heights and Valley View in order to capture broad voter attention.
District 7, which includes Cleveland Wards 3, 7, 8, 9 and 12, boasts an interesting mix of candidates, most of them Democrats. The lone Republican running in that district is Phyllis Lucia Crespo, an attorney. On the Democratic side, the race includes Clark Broida, a marketing rep for a real estate title agency and the husband of Marie Kittredge, the director of Slavic Village Development Corp. James Levin cofounded Ingenuity Festival, an annual celebration of art and technology in Cleveland.
Family ties may be a factor in the District 7 race. Democrat Yvonne Conwell is the wife of Cleveland Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell. Yvonne Conwell pulled out of the District 7 race a couple of months ago, only to re-enter in mid-June. Democratic candidate Victor Miller is the younger brother of Eugene Miller, Cleveland Ward 10 councilman.
Political blogger Tim Russo is also running as a Democrat in District 7. He has said that the first bill he would introduce if elected to council would be the Human Rights for Ex-Offenders Act, which would make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on an applicant’s criminal record. In 2002, Russo pled guilty to importuning, which refers to the attempt to disseminate matter harmful to a juvenile. He is not on the county’s sex offender list.
Candidates in District 8 range from Pernel Jones Jr., a funeral home director, to Gerald Cooper, pastor of St. James A.M.E. Church in Cleveland. The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party lent its endorsement to Cooper in June. District 8 encompasses Cleveland Wards 2, 5 and 6, along with Garfield Heights and Maple Heights.
There are no Republicans running in District 9, a highly Democratic region that includes Bedford, Bedford Heights, Cleveland Wards 1 and 4, Shaker Heights, Warrensville Heights, Highland Hills, North Randall, Orange, and Woodmere. This is one of the most socially and economically diverse districts in the county.
Democratic candidates in District 9 include Kimberly F. Brown, who ran a spirited although unsuccessful campaign to oust Frank Jackson from his post as mayor of Cleveland.
Three independent candidates have thus far announced their intentions to run in District 9. Among them is James Brady, who resigned from the Republican Party just before declaring himself a candidate for county council.
District 10, which includes Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Cleveland Wards 10 and 11, and the village of Bratenahl, could prove to be an interesting race. Democrat Julian Rogers has already been endorsed by State Senator Nina Turner and State Representatives Mike Foley and Matt Patten.
Sharon Cole, another Democratic candidate in District 10, has been a congressional staffer for several politicians. She has stated that Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the late congresswoman, inspired her to become a public servant. Tubbs Jones, who died in August of 2008 after suffering an aneurysm, is still admired by many in the area she represented, and her legacy could bring heightened interest in Cole’s campaign.
Democratic candidate KC Petraitis recently received his Master of Arts in public administration from Cleveland State University. If elected, he says he will “think as a policy maker rather than a politician.”
Matt Brakey knows he faces an uphill battle running as a Republican in District 10. But the first-time political candidate says he wants to enact specific changes in the region, such as ending the $425 million medical mart subsidy, banning all red-light cameras and having the sheriff’s department resume patrol of East Cleveland.
In District 11, Democrat Jim Joyner served as manager of public information and training for the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County for 15 years. Democrat Philip Fine, an attorney, was a member of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board. Democratic candidate Sunny Simon currently serves as councilperson-at-large in South Euclid. She was recently given an endorsement by the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.
Richmond Heights Councilwoman Kathryn Gambatese, a Republican, spent four years as chairman of the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation. She has said that she will not run again for city council. Joseph Liptow, also a Republican, lost a bid for councilman-at-large of South Euclid last fall.
District 11 encompasses Beachwood, Euclid, Lyndhurst, Richmond Heights, South Euclid and University Heights.
With the deadline for non-partisan candidates still three months off, it’s likely that others will add their names to the list under the title of independent. In other words, we’ve only just begun to see how the county council race will play out.