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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is retiring, and for the first time in 16 years, City Hall is getting a new leader. What do the seven candidates offer? What do voters want? Host Nick Castele goes on the campaign trail in "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor" from Ideastream Public Media. Follow: Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | Feed

After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor - Episode 8: For Deposit Only

Campaign mailers from the seven mayoral candidates. Some have been paid for by the candidates' campaigns, some by super PACs including Clevelanders for All and Citizens for Change. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
A spread of mailers from the seven candidates for Cleveland mayor.

We’re talking about money in the mayoral race today. Who's giving it and who's getting it.

Maybe it’s about access and getting phone calls returned. Maybe it’s because they just like the candidates and their message. Whatever the reason, donors are writing checks. They’re giving online. They’re going to fundraisers.

City Council President Kevin Kelley has been the financial juggernaut for much of the mayor’s race. He entered the month of July with $537,000 on hand – the most of any candidate at that time. So, where’s he getting that money? And what does the money let a candidate do?

For one thing, the cash has helped Kelley buy ad time on television. It’s not cheap. You can also use that money to hire consultants, PR firms, pollsters.

An 8-page anti-Dennis Kucinich "comic" (left) financed by the Citizens for Change PAC sent to Cleveland voters. Kucinich's campaign created a parody of the parody (right).

Businessman Tony George gives plenty of money to politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. In 2016, he hosted a fundraiser for Donald Trump.

This year, George and his wife each gave Zack Reed $5,000, the legal limit.

George and other family members gave a collective $15,000 to Basheer Jones this year and $28,000 to Dennis Kucinich last year. State Sen. Sandra Williams received $13,000 last year – just about the maximum allowed for a state legislative candidate, which, technically, she was at the time. He did not give money to Kelley this election cycle.

"We don’t need the same old, same old. Kevin Kelley’s the same old, same old," George said. "He’s council president for seven years, and now he’s going to say it’s not his fault? Well, who’s fault is it, then?"

George says he’s hoping that two of the four candidates he’s backing make it out of the primary and into the general. He says his family would be happy to give maximum contributions to both.

Follow “After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor” on NPR One, iTunes or on your favorite podcast platform. Or catch it every Wednesday at 9 a.m. on the “Sound of Ideas” on 90.3 WCPN.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.