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7 Cleveland Mayoral Candidates Certified For September Ballot

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections met Monday to certify the candidates for the Sept. 14 primary. [Tim Harrison / ideastream]
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections warehouse in Downtown Cleveland

Updated: 5:55 p.m., Monday, June 28, 2021

Landry Simmons, the lone Republican to submit petitions to run for Cleveland mayor this year, withdrew from the race after failing to collect the required 3,000 valid signatures, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections officials said in a Monday meeting.

Cleveland’s charter allowed Simmons another five days to gather more signatures after the June 16 filing deadline. But even after that, he fell 107 names short, board director Anthony Perlatti said.

Simmons said, in an email to Ideastream Public Media after the meeting, he plans to instead pursue a state Senate bid. His district on Cleveland’s West Side – currently represented by Democratic Sen. Nickie Antonio – will be on the ballot in 2022.

The board of elections on Monday approved seven candidates for the Sept. 14 Cleveland mayoral primary ballot: Justin Bibb, Ross DiBello, Basheer Jones, Kevin Kelley, Dennis Kucinich, Zack Reed and Sandra Williams.

Board staff are also looking into issues with Simmons’ and Bibb’s petition submissions.

On the petitions Bibb filed, a number of voter addresses had been crossed out and replaced with different ones, Perlatti said. In most cases, the edits turned what would have been invalid signature lines into valid ones, he said.

In order to be counted as valid, petition signatures must include addresses that match the address on file with the board of elections. The board does not count signatures of voters who have moved without updating their addresses.

But even if the board threw out the signatures with edited addresses, Bibb still would have enough valid signatures to make the ballot, Perlatti said.

In a text message to Ideastream Public Media, Bibb campaign manager Ryan Puente said the changes were the result of an “honest mistake” by someone on the campaign.

“A member of the campaign made an honest mistake by updating approximately 70 incorrect addresses when verifying against the BOE’s records,” Puente said. “The campaign will continue to work with the BOE in addressing any outstanding concerns or issues.”

Overall, Bibb’s campaign turned in 5,426 signatures, of which 4,008 were ruled valid, according to the board.

Board members approved Bibb for the September ballot, but agreed board staff should look deeper into the alterations.

“I don’t think there’s an issue about certifying this candidate to the ballot, but I would agree that we do, should probably take a look, after staff’s recommendation, to investigate this irregularity,” Democratic board member Inajo Davis Chappell said.

Petition circulators must write down the number of signatures they witnessed on each petition part submitted. In Simmons’ case, someone changed those numbers to make them accurately reflect the number of signatures on each part.

Those changes did not appear to have been made by the circulators themselves, nor were the changes necessary in order to comply with petitioning rules, Perlatti said.

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