Blaine Griffin elected Cleveland City Council president

Newly elected Cleveland City Council president Blaine Griffin
Blaine Griffin was elected president of Cleveland City Council on Friday. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Blaine Griffin won election as Cleveland City Council president unanimously Friday morning in a caucus meeting of incoming Democratic members.

The incumbent Ward 6 councilman told his colleagues that council would work to carry out the change that voters asked for in the Nov. 2 election that sent Justin Bibb to the mayor’s office.

“Ladies and gentlemen, change was a mandate this past Tuesday,” Griffin said. The citizens of this community want to see change. They don’t want to just see change in an academic sense, they want to see change in a way that they can touch, feel and see in their communities and their neighborhood.”

Griffin said he would work with the incoming Bibb administration. But he also made clear that he saw council as an independent body.  

“We’re going to have our own identity,” he said. “We are not going to be subservient to any other government body. We are going to be a co-equal branch of government.”

Griffin supported Bibb’s general election rival, outgoing Council President Kevin Kelley, in the recent mayor’s race. Griffin said that although he considers Mayor Frank Jackson his “best friend,” he would be his own person as council’s new leader.

The mayor-elect congratulated Griffin in a statement released Friday afternoon.

“Congratulations to Blaine on his unanimous vote,” Bibb said. “He is a fierce advocate for the neighborhoods. I look forward to working very closely with Council President-Elect Griffin. We both know the critical challenges facing our community and I’m eager to collaborate with him to make Cleveland stronger.”

Although Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack – who endorsed Bibb – had also been angling for the job as council president, he did not challenge Griffin in the caucus meeting. Instead, McCormack was the first to nominate Griffin as president.

“I have known Blaine since I’ve started on city council,” he said. “I know him to be a person of integrity and of collaboration in the community as well as with policy and legislation here in the body.”

All 17 members-elect are Democrats, and all were invited to the meeting. Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy was not present.

Helen Sheehan, the interim executive director of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, chaired the meeting. While in decades past the caucus had met at county Democratic headquarters, this meeting took place within council’s offices at City Hall.

The caucus voted for Griffin after invoking the “unit rule,” which requires council members to vote unanimously when they formally ratify the council president’s election in January.

Rebecca Maurer, who defeated Ward 12 incumbent Tony Brancatelli this week, had criticized the unit rule in a statement the day before the vote. At the caucus meeting, she asked for more explanation of the rule and said residents in her ward don’t feel connected to City Hall.

“They don’t feel engaged by the process at City Hall,” Maurer said. “They feel that there’s confusion and misunderstanding.”

Members will vote again in January at council’s first regular meeting to formally name Griffin as president.

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