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Mayor-elect Justin Bibb raised and spent $1.6 million in Cleveland mayoral race

Justin Bibb, seen here speaking at a forum in the primary, began fundraising in September 2020 in his successful campaign to become mayor of Cleveland. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland mayoral candidate Justin Bibb speaks at a mayoral forum in Jefferson Park

Justin Bibb raised and spent nearly $1.6 million in his successful campaign for the Cleveland mayor’s office, new campaign finance reports show.

The latest disclosures, which were due to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections last Friday, cover the weeks leading up to and following the Nov. 2 general election.

Bibb began raising money in September 2020, bringing in about $207,000 ahead of the early January launch of his mayoral bid.

Council President Kevin Kelley, who would go on to become Bibb’s general election opponent, raised $217,650 in the latter half of last year. Kelley added that to his already well-stocked campaign account, beginning 2021 with $524,531 on hand – the most in the mayoral field.

But Bibb went on to outraise Kelley in every campaign finance reporting period of 2021.

From mid-2020 through this year’s election, the council president spent slightly less than Bibb overall, about $1.5 million. Kelley raised about $1.3 million over that period.  

Bibb’s greatest fundraising strength was his ability to bring in two- and three-figure contributions from a large number of donors. At the same time, the now mayor-elect also landed higher-dollar donors. For instance, in the final days of the race, Bibb received $7,500 from the campaign committee of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.

Mayoral candidates could receive up to $5,000 from an individual and $7,500 from a political action committee or labor union.

Bibb’s heaviest spending came at the end of the campaign. He reported almost $528,000 in expenditures in the disclosure period that ran from Oct. 13 to the start of December. Of that, about $300,000 paid for advertising time through Burges & Burges Strategists, a political consulting firm that coordinated radio and TV ads for the Bibb campaign.

The mayor-elect reported $43,562 at the start of December.

The fundraising is not over for Bibb. He now must raise money to cover transition costs. After the election, his campaign committee donated $2,500 to his transition fund, the maximum allowed.

Not all of the spending on the mayor’s race has been accounted for yet. Super PACs, including the anti-Kucinich committee Citizens for Change and the pro-Kelley Citizens for Cleveland’s Future, have until January to disclose fundraising and spending.

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