CLEVELAND (WJW)– With Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson opting to not run for re-election, the field is wide open.
As of Friday afternoon, 12 candidates have declared they’re vying for the city’s top job. They include three current or former city council members and one state senator, but most are political newcomers.
There will be a nonpartisan primary on Sept. 14 to find which two top vote-getters will square off in November.
Not all of the declared candidates have filed the paperwork for the primary with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. They have until June 14 to do so. That means even more candidates could already join the crowded field.
There are other folks who have been mentioned as possible candidates, including former Cleveland mayor and former U.S. Dennis Kucinich . When reached by phone Friday, he said he’s not discussing his plans right now.
“This is Mayor Jackson’s day. After 16 years of service to this city he deserves to have the conversation be about him and what he’s done for this city. I don’t want to make the conversation about me and whether or not I will run for office. Now’s not the proper time,” Kucinich said.
But whoever wins out will have to deal with a city that is still recovering from the pandemic and a former mayor who help shape the city for more than 16 years.
With such a large field, getting out information will be the key to voter engagement.
“We’ve had the same mayor for a long time and this could mean big change. And Clevelanders need to feel a part of that so that they have a choice about where they’re future’s going,” said Anita Ruf-Young, interim director at Cleveland State University’s Office of Civic Engagement.
Her office created a website that will help voters meet the candidates as they file and enter into the race for Cleveland mayor
They don’t endorse, just inform and seek to increase not only student participation in the political process, but all voters because Cleveland has historically low turnout for local races.
“The decisions about what they bring to the city, what they don’t bring to the city allow in our city the decisions that they make with decisions about what happens to the resources. We have with Lake Erie, issues with lead, all those types of things, our school systems. You want to know who our leaders are and you want to make your voice known,” Ruf-Young said.
So far, half a dozen of the declared candidates have responded with videos on the site and they’ll continue to expand as more candidates join the race.