Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White Endorses Justin Bibb

Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White endorses Justin Bibb, right, outside Bibb's grandmother's house Wednesday.
Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White endorses Justin Bibb, right, outside Bibb's grandmother's house Wednesday. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White stepped back into the spotlight Wednesday to endorse Justin Bibb for his old job.

The former mayor and mayoral hopeful stood together with supporters in front of Bibb’s grandmother’s home on the southeast side of Cleveland.

White called Bibb “worthy and ready” to take the job, and knocked down potential criticism of the candidate’s age – he is 34 – and newness to the political scene.

“I’ve heard all of the chatter,” White said. “’Justin is too young to be mayor of the city of Cleveland.’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was the second youngest mayor of the city of Cleveland. I don’t think age is a disqualified. Then I hear that Justin hasn’t been in politics very long. Look what politics has got us. Look what business as usual has got us.”

As a 38-year-old state senator, White won a surprise victory against then-council president George Forbes in the 1989 mayoral election. He served three terms but chose to forgo a fourth campaign in 2001. He has largely stayed out of the public eye since leaving office, advising community development corporations and running a farm and winery in Tuscarawas County.

White encouraged voters skeptical of Bibb to “take a second look,” calling him “a smart, hardworking, committed individual,” and compared Bibb’s campaign to his own 1989 run for mayor.

“Justin has done what his mother asked him to do,” White said. “Justin, stay out of the streets. Justin, don’t ride with the bad crowd. Justin, get an education, get some experience and come home and help your community. He checked all the boxes.”

Early voting began this week for the Sept. 14 primary, which will narrow the field of seven candidates down to two. White said Bibb’s campaign will redouble its on-the-ground efforts to get out voters in the final month of this contest.

“We got to work like a dog whose hair is on fire,” White said. “We got to work in the morning, work for lunch, work in the evening. We got to work when everybody else is sleeping. We got to work when everybody else is eating. When they’re thinking, we got to be doing.”

Two other candidates unveiled endorsements from well-known Cleveland political figures Wednesday.

Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones won the endorsement of Norman Edwards, who advocates for minority hiring on construction projects through the Black Contractors Group. Jones, Edwards and other supporters assembled at Annie P’s Restaurant and Black Wall Street Café on East 93rd Street Wednesday morning.

“It’s no hope in this city,” Edwards said in an Instagram video shared by Jones. “Basheer Jones brings hope. We need hope in the city of Cleveland. We’re tired of being kicked, we’re tired of not even being able to be on the bus. We deserve better. So we have a candidate who is also a friend who is not scared to stand with us to demand equity, demand a piece of the pie.”

Earlier this year, Edwards backed Shontel Brown against Nina Turner in the special Democratic primary to fill Marcia Fudge’s Congressional seat.

Also on Wednesday, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich accepted the endorsement of former Rep. Mary Rose Oakar in a small news conference at the West Side Market.

Oakar was once a political rival of Kucinich’s, endorsing George Voinovich against him in the 1979 mayoral race. Kucinich unsuccessfully challenged her in a 1988 Democratic Congressional primary. But yesterday, they chatted like old friends at the market before speaking to reporters.

“Some of the newcomers are interesting,” Oakar said of other candidates in the race. “Maybe Dennis will want to hire them. But they’re not ready to be mayor. For the needs our city has, you need an experienced person.”

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