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Basheer Jones Backs Kevin Kelley; Zack Reed Endorses Justin Bibb

Cleveland Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones, right, endorses Council President Kevin Kelley, left, for mayor. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones, right, endorses Council President Kevin Kelley, left, for mayor.

Two former Cleveland mayoral primary candidates have picked sides in the November general election.

Zack Reed endorsed Justin Bibb on Wednesday. Just an hour later, Basheer Jones endorsed Kevin Kelley.

Reed and Jones won 12 and 11.8 percent of the Sept. 14 primary vote, respectively. They maintain political bases in parts of the city’s East Side that will be crucial as Kelley and Bibb work to expand their support before November.

In an interview with Ideastream Public Media, Reed said he believed a Bibb administration would pay attention to the needs of the city’s southeast side – a part of town that Reed used to represent on Cleveland City Council.

“Justin has the plan, the policies and procedure to deal with the problems that existed yesterday, that exist today and to erase those problems in tomorrow,” Reed said. “And Justin promised me that when he’s mayor of the city of Cleveland he’s going to ensure that the people here on the southeast side of the city of Cleveland get the same resources and get the same opportunities that other neighborhoods have gotten across the city.”

Reed said he would canvass, make phone calls and raise money in order to marshal his supporters to the polls for Bibb. The southeast side of the city represents a significant part of the East Side electorate, Bibb said.

“Voters in this part of the community want a mayor that’s going to be a fighter,” Bibb said. “They want a mayor that’s going to prioritize public safety as well as police accountability. And they want a mayor that’s going to make sure that Lee Harvard, Buckeye and Mount Pleasant and Union Miles get their fair share of resources as we get our way out of this pandemic.”

The two men held an event at Reed’s campaign headquarters in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. About six miles away, in St. Clair-Superior, Jones announced his support of Kelley.

Zack Reed, left, endorsed Justin Bibb, right, for Cleveland mayor on Wednesday. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Jones told a crowd of supporters that the contest for mayor should not be about the race of the candidates. Kelley is white and Bibb is Black.

“I don’t just go with somebody because they look like me, that’s foolishness,” Jones said. “I go with somebody who has the results, who has the reputation, who believes in the renaissance and who understands that this community needs resources. And despite what people may believe about [Council] President Kelley, he’s a man of honor. He’s a person that stands on his word.”

In an early July mayoral forum, Jones suggested that he and Bibb were on parallel paths, saying they both “have the same mission to make this city better, even if we’re riding in different cars.”

But on Wednesday, without naming Bibb, Jones referred to him as “someone who has come from nowhere, and we have no idea who they are or where they came from.”

Jones said he and Kelley disagreed on issues in the past, but that they could still work together. Kelley said he and Jones collaborated on council to support development projects in Jones’ Ward 7, which includes the Hough neighborhood.

“Making change means bringing people together,” Kelley said. “Making change means identifying resources. Making change is more difficult than talking about change, but it can be done when committed people come together with common values. And that’s how Councilman Jones and I have worked together, and that’s how I’m going to continue to work as mayor.”

The general election will be held Nov. 2, but early voting begins Oct. 5.

An earlier version of this story mistakenly swapped Zack Reed and Basheer Jones' vote percentages.

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