Cleveland mayoral race picks up pace

Ryan Loew

With less than a week before Tuesday’s election, the Cleveland mayoral race has picked up speed as it approaches what may be a close day at the polls.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and City Council President Frank Jackson, both Democrats, sharpened their attacks Tuesday in the second of three debates.

During the debate, Jackson said Campbell’s four years as mayor had been marked by more crime, a worsening of Ohio’s largest mayor-controlled public school system and a declining business environment.

“I want you to see Cleveland become a great city again,” said Jackson, a councilman for 16 years and president for the past four years.

Campbell said Jackson had ignored citywide issues such as development of the Lake Erie waterfront and had opposed major projects including new sports stadiums and a public transit project, “regardless of the revisionist history you hear.”

“At the end of the day, things get done by this administration,” she said.

The debate was reflective of the close mayoral race, said Phil DiBianca, member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. The county party is not endorsing either candidate because they are both Democrats, he said.

“I think both scored some points on issues,” DiBianca said. “I don’t think anyone delivered a decisive knockout blow.”

The deciding factor in the close mayoral race will likely be voter turnout, he said. The west side of the city tends to favor Campbell, DiBianca said, while the east side favors Jackson.

“It’s going to be nip and tuck all day,” he said.

Campbell may have an advantage as the incumbent, he said, but as city council president, Jackson is not unfamiliar to the voters.

“The two candidates are beginning to become clearer in their positions,” said David Elkins, chairman of the political science department at Cleveland State. “Mayor Campbell seems to be running as the underdog now, which is somewhat intriguing since she is the incumbent.

“(Jackson’s) campaign seems to be about leadership, the qualities he believes to be appropriate and that she has failed to meet those.”

Elkins believes Jackson is ahead in the mayoral race, despite two successful debates for Campbell.

“Mayor Campbell needs something better than a couple really good debate appearances,” he said.

In the end, the debates have little effect when it comes time for voters to visit the polls next week, Elkins said. In an incumbent election, voters are essentially evaluating the current leadership.

“So in some respects,” he said, “Council President Jackson is spot on.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Contact public affairs reporter Ryan Loew at [email protected].