Cleveland City Council Gets 5 New Members

A polling location on Public Square. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

Cleveland's 17 city council seats will include some new faces starting in January.

In Ward 7, Basheer Jones beat out incumbent TJ Dow in a close race.

Jones surpassed Dow in the unofficial tally by 19 votes. Dow was first elected in 2007 to the East Side ward that includes Hough and St. Clair-Superior.

At his watch party near Downtown Cleveland, after the votes were counted, Jones called for unity between his supporters and Dow’s.

“If you truly believe what we believe, that Ward 7 is the best place in the entire city, then I want you to come on over here, join us," said Jones, an author and activist originally from Brooklyn, NY.

He ran against Dow in 2013, losing by 700 votes. Jones credited his victory to a widespread dissatisfaction with Dow’s performance in office.

Ward 14’s Brian Cummins lost a tight race to challenger Jasmin Santana.

Santana beat out Cummins in the primary by 34 votes, they both advanced to the general election, where Santana expanded her margin to 48 votes.

Ward 14 includes the Clark-Fulton and Stockyards neighborhoods on the West Side. After the results were in, Santana said the current councilman, Cummins, who represented Old Brooklyn before redistricting transformed his ward, lost touch with the residents.

“For the highest concentrated Latino area, we finally have a voice at city hall, someone that’s sitting at the table," said Santana.

In total, three incumbents – Cummins, Dow and Terrell Pruitt – were beaten by narrow margins. Pruitt’s loss by 9 votes to former councilman Joe Jones could trigger an automatic recount. 

Wards 2 and 10 were left open by Zack Reed and Jeff Johnson when they launched campaigns for mayor.

In Johnson’s seat, Ward 10 on the east side, Anthony Hairston won easily. He’ll move over from his county council seat, where he’s served since 2014.

In Ward 2, businessman Kevin Bishop also won easily, replacing Reed.

The twelve other incumbents all held onto their seats by wide margins.

Below is a rundown of each of the Cleveland City Council contests:


Winner: Joe Jones with 50.09% of the vote

Incumbent Terrell Pruitt was appointed to the seat in 2008 after Nina Turner left to join the Ohio State Senate. In a three-way race in the primary, Pruitt came in second to Joe Jones, with a difference of about 250 votes. Pruitt is a member of the Ohio National Guard and served two tours in Afghanistan. He's the majority whip on council and chair of the utilities and operations committees.

Jones is a former councilman in Ward 1, who pled guilty in federal court to mail fraud charges and resigned from council in 2005. He failed to disclose an interest-free loan from a local businessman on his state financial disclosure form. Jones' record was expunged in 2015 in Cuyahoga County Court, allowing him to run this year.

Ward 1 is in Southeastern Cleveland, bordered by Shaker Heights and Garfield Heights and includes the Lee-Harvard and Union-Miles neighborhoods.


Winner: Kevin Bishop with 72% of the vote

Incumbent Zack Reed held this seat for 17 years before running for mayor this year. It's one of two open seats.

Kevin Bishop finished first in September's eight candidate primary with 563 votes, about a quarter of the total. Bishop owns a car service based in Shaker Heights and received the Plain Dealer editorial board's endorsement for the general election, after the board's endorsed candidate in the primary, Debra Lewis-Curlee, failed to advance to the general election.

Geoff Fitch finished second in the primary with 368 votes. Fitch ran on a platform that included installing gunshot detection software and cameras that would alert police of a shooter's location.

Ward 2 is in Southeastern Cleveland and includes Mt. Pleasant and Union-Miles. 


Winner: Kerry McCormack with 85% of the vote

Incumbent Kerry McCormack was appointed to the seat in 2016 to replace Joe Cimperman who left council to run the nonprofit Global Cleveland. This is McCormack's first election and there was no primary because there's only one other candidate. McCormack worked at Ohio City, Inc. before moving to council. His father, Tim McCormack, is a longtime Cuyahoga County political figure and currently a judge on the Ohio Court of Appeals.

Challenger Logan Fahey is a co-founder of Bloom Bakery. Fahey's campaign was focused on small business development and continued development in the ward.

Ward 3 includes Downtown, Tremont, the Flats and Ohio City. It's a part of the city that's seen a rebound in housing prices and a flurry of new development in the past few years. 


Winner: Kenneth Johnson with 57% of the vote

Incumbent Kenneth Johnson was first elected in 1980, making him the second-longest serving member of council behind Michael Polensek. Johnson faced seven challengers in the primary but was still able to win 48 percent of the vote. In 2013, Johnson retired and was able to begin collecting benefits. He then reappointed himself, with council approval, to his seat. The move allowed him to collect his salary and pension, a practice known as 'double-dipping.'

Challenger Gail Sparks won 23 percent in the primary. Sparks has worked as a case manager for Cuyahoga County and owned a shop in Larchmere. Sparks ran on a 'neighborhood development' platform, criticizing the current administration for focusing too much on development that serves downtown and the area around Cleveland Clinic.

Ward 4 is on the East Side and covers the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood.


Winner: Phyllis Cleveland with 59% of the vote

Incumbent Phyllis Cleveland is seeking her fourth term on council. Cleveland faced two challengers in the primary and won 52 percent of the vote. She is the majority leader on council and chair of the workforce and community benefits committee. Cleveland supported two controversial projects in her ward: the $330-million Opportunity Corridor, a new, state-funded road connecting the University Circle area to I-490 that cuts through several east side neighborhoods and a dirt bike track that passed council but was eventually dropped over insurance and noise issues.

Challenger Richard Starr works at the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. He won 42 percent of the vote in the primary. Starr's campaign received scrutiny from the county board of elections after dozens of absentee ballots were requested by the Boys and Girls Club location that Starr runs. Starr told that he's on leave from work and never intended to handle the ballots himself.

Ward 5 is on the East Side and includes the Kinsman, Central and Midtown neighborhoods.


Winner: Blaine Griffin with 69% of the vote

Incumbent Blaine Griffin was appointed to the seat earlier this year after Mamie Mitchell retired from council. Griffin led the Community Relations Board in Mayor Frank Jackson's administration for 11 years before joining council. He received 61 percent of the vote in the primary against 6 challengers.

Challenger Joshua Perkins McHamm is a local businessman who won 14 percent of the vote in the primary. 

 Ward 6 includes Larchmere, Fairfax and Buckeye Shaker.


Winner: Basheer Jones with 50.31% of the vote

Incumbent TJ Dow has been in council since 2007. Dow ran against this year's challenger, Basheer Jones, in 2013 and won by 700 votes. Dow is a lawyer and former prosecutor for the county.

Challenger Basheer Jones is an activist and author. He was a local organizer for Barack Obama and is originally from Brooklyn, NY.

Ward 7 includes Hough and St. Clair-Superior.


Winner: Mike Polensek with 87% of the vote

Incumbent Mike Polensek is the longest-serving councilman in Cleveland's history, serving since 1978. He was president of council from 1999 to 2002 and often votes against the majority. Polensek worked at an automobile factory on St. Clair Ave. before joining council.

His challenger, Donald Boyd, is a chef and native of Cleveland.

Ward 8 includes Collinwood and the eastern part of Glenville.


Winner: Kevin Conwell with 78% of the vote

Incumbent Kevin Conwell joined council in 2001. He's married to Yvonne Conwell, a Cuyahoga County councilwoman and won 80% of the vote in the primary.

Challenger Anthony Body is a member of the Community Police Commission and a good neighbor ambassador for the regional sewer district.

Ward 9 is on the East Side and includes University Circle and Glenville.


Winner: Anthony Hairston with 64% of the vote

Incumbent Jeffrey Johnson left the seat to run for mayor and did not make it past the primary.

Anthony Hairston has been a member of Cuyahoga County Council since 2014. He's been a community activist for years and was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Eugene Miller is a former city councilman who works in Cleveland city government and has also served in the state House of Representatives. Miller lost to Jeff Johnson in 2013 after developing a reputation for throwing tantrums in public.  

Ward 10 stretches along the shore of Lake Erie, from east of downtown into Glenville.


Winner: Dona Brady with 79% of the vote

Incumbent Dona Brady joined council in 1999 and has made restoring the 88-year-old Variety Theatre a mission. Before coming to council, Brady worked in the county prosecutor's office and in the housing court. Her husband, Dan Brady, is president of Cuyahoga County Council.

Ward 11 is on the west side and includes Cudell and West Blvd.


Winner: Anthony Brancatelli with 73% of the vote

Incumbent Anthony Brancatelli has served on council since 2005. Brancatelli is chairman of the county Land Bank and the city's representative at the regional transportation agency known as NOACA. He chairs council's development committee and was director of Slavic Village Development Corp. before joining council.

Challenger Shalira Taylor owns a marketing business and, according to this story on the website The Root, received help from the Trump Campaign during a previous run for public office.

Ward 12 includes Slavic Village and Brooklyn Centre.


Winner: Kevin Kelley with 77% of the vote

Incumbent Kevin Kelley is City Council president and chair of the finance committee. He controls what legislation comes in front of council and when it gets a vote. Kelley joined council in 2005 and continues to work at the law firm Porter Wright Morris and Arthur.

His challenger, Michele Burk, is a member of the politically active regional union SEIU Local 1199. They are the group that spearheaded the campaign for a citywide $15 minimum wage and participated in the referendum drive to block the Q Deal.

Ward 13 includes Old Brooklyn and a part of the Stockyards.


Winner: Jasmin Santana with 51% of the vote

Incumbent Brian Cummins has been on council since 2006, though his ward's boundaries have changed several times since then. Before council, he ran the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation and was, until recently, a member of the Green Party.

Challenger Jasmin Santana is a long-time resident of the Clark-Fulton area and community outreach worker with the Hispanic Alliance. She ran with the help of the Democratic Party ward club, which declined to endorse Cummins and has a contentious relationship with the councilman.

Ward 14 includes the Clark-Fulton and Stockyards neighborhoods.


Winner: Matt Zone with 80% of the vote

Incumbent Matt Zone has been on council since 2001 and is chair of the safety committee, where he works on the federal consent decree. 

Challenger Alex Karrfalt is a member of SEIU 1199 and a transplant to Cleveland.

Ward 15 includes Edgewater and Detroit Shoreway.


Winner: Brian Kazy with 69% of the vote

Incumbent Brian Kazy was appointed to the seat in 2015, after Martin Sweeney left for the Ohio House of Representatives. Kazy is a former Cuyahoga County probation officer and member of the county Democratic Party's executive committee.

Challenger Ellen Cleary is a native of West Park and volunteered in Dennis Kucinich's office in Lakewood during high school.

Ward 16 is on the far west side of Cleveland and includes Bellaire-Puritas and West Park.


Winner: Martin Keane with 73% of the vote

Incumbent Martin Keane was first elected in 2007 and is chair of the transportation committee, which oversees the airports. Before council, Keane was a probation officer and prosecutor.

Keane's challenger is John Kelly.

Ward 17 includes Kamm's Corners and West Park.

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