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Incumbents Prevail In Cleveland City Council Primary Election

Cleveland's City Hall currently has 17 council seats, of which 10 were contested on the Sept. 14 primary ballot. [Matt Richmond / Ideastream Public Media]
A photo shows Cleveland City Hall.

All eight incumbents seeking reelection to their Cleveland City Council seats will advance to the November general election, according to unofficial results in the Sept. 14 primary election.

And, although he made it to the ballot despite being unseated in July following a conviction on federal corruption and tax fraud charges, former Ward 4 Councilman Ken Johnson will not advance to the general election. He placed fifth in a field of 11 candidates, and his former seat will go to either Deborah Gray or Erick Walker, who received the highest primary vote totals.

Meanwhile, in Ward 7, which also did not have an incumbent after Councilman Basheer Jones decided to run for Cleveland mayor, State Rep. Stephanie Howse and former Councilman TJ Dow were the two leaders with 29 percent and 25 percent of the vote, respectively.

Handily emerging as leaders in their races were incumbents Joe Jones of Ward 1; Kevin Bishop of Ward 2; Kerry McCormack of Ward 3; Michael D. Polensek of Ward 8; Brian Mooney of Ward 11; and Charles Slife of Ward 17.

Closer outcomes were seen in two races with incumbents. In Ward 5, incumbent Councilwoman Delores Gray (45 percent) split the vote with Richard Starr (47 percent) of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio. In Ward 12, incumbent Anthony Brancatelli (46 percent) edged out Rebecca Maurer (42 percent), an attorney and the ward’s Democratic club leader.

The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the November election.

Perhaps the most closely watched primary race was in Ward 4 on Cleveland's southeast side, where former Councilman Johnson lost his seat in July after being found guilty of filing fraudulent expense reports, misusing federal money that went to a local development corporation and filing false tax reports. Johnson had held the seat since 1980.

Anita Gardner, who was appointed as an interim replacement for Johnson, did not run for the seat, leaving the field wide open for contenders.

The top two finishers, Deborah Gray and Erick Walker, would both be first-time council members. Gray is a precinct committeewoman and the sister of Ward 5's Delores Gray. Walker is a government documents researcher for Cleveland Public Library.

Ward 7, which includes part of Downtown Cleveland and the neighborhoods of Hough, St. Clair-Superior and Asiatown, saw two former council members vying to return.

State Rep. Stephanie Howse had previously been appointed to represent the ward in 2008, following the death of longtime Councilwoman Fannie Lewis. She served only several months that year before losing the seat to Dow, who held the seat until 2017, when he lost a reelection bid against current Councilman Basheer Jones. Jones chose not to seek reelection in order to run for Cleveland mayor.

Slife, the appointed incumbent from Ward 17, faced challenges from two opponents. Mary K. O'Malley, a former sales executive for Pepsi-Cola, placed second and will advance to the general election. Kenneth Trump, a school safety consultant and a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, came in third.

Justin Glanville is the senior producer of community storytelling at Ideastream Public Media.