Door To Door: Getting to know Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley

Cleveland mayoral candidates Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley shake hands after a debate at the Idea Center
As candidates, Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley have stuck to their scripts and playbooks. In the next two episodes of "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," we get to know them better. [Michaelangelo's Photography]

Two weeks from today, voters will pick either Justin Bibb or Kevin Kelley to lead the city of Cleveland for the next four years.

The candidates have their share of differences. Kelley is 53. Bibb is 34. Kelley, a lawyer, has served on Cleveland City Council since 2005. Bibb has held jobs in government, business and urban policy consulting, but is on the ballot for the first time.

The two men also have their similarities. Neither wears his heart on his sleeve. In forums and debates, neither has been prone to unpredictable outbursts. As speakers and campaigners, they stick to their scripts and playbooks. They were among the race’s most successful fundraisers.

They also have this in common: Almost a year ago, neither was in the top two among likely mayoral candidates in an early survey of the race. A phone survey taken by RABA Research in the last week of December 2020 placed Dennis Kucinich and Zack Reed at the top of the list, at 25 percent support and 13 percent, respectively.

Kelley was in third with 10 percent. Bibb was in last place with 2 percent. (Primary candidate Ross DiBello was not included in the poll, but Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin, who did not run for mayor, was.)

In the next two episodes of our podcast, “After Jackson: Cleveland’s Next Mayor,” I’d like to reintroduce you to Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley. The candidates sat down with me separately last week for interviews about their backgrounds and outlooks.

Tomorrow on the podcast, you’ll hear our profile of Bibb. Next week, you’ll hear from Kelley. These are the last two episodes before the Nov. 2 general election, although we’ll do some wrap-up reporting after that.

I hope these two episodes will help you understand who these candidates are, how they made it this far and what they offer the city of Cleveland. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or you can go to ideastream.org/afterjackson. And if you prefer the radio experience, the podcast is carried on the “Sound of Ideas” every Wednesday.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through the city’s biggest mayoral race in years. We are now nearing the summit.

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