Justin Bibb, Kevin Kelley Kick Off General Election With Endorsements, Poll

Justin Bibb, left, accepts the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union Local 1. Kevin Kelley, right, is endorsed by Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin.
Justin Bibb, left, accepts the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union Local 1. Kevin Kelley, right, is endorsed by Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

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Cleveland mayoral candidates Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley dashed into the first week of the general election with a string of endorsements as the two men try to consolidate support across the city.

Kelley last week received the backing of Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin, who is seeking to succeed the mayoral candidate as council president. Bibb was endorsed on Wednesday by two Service Employees International Union groups, Local 1 and District 1199.

Also on Wednesday, the Kelley campaign released the topline results of an internal poll showing Kelley with 32 percent support to Bibb’s 30 percent. A plurality of voters surveyed, 38 percent, had not made up their minds.  

The survey collected responses on digital platforms and social media from 492 likely Cleveland voters between Sept. 17 and Sept. 20 and had a margin of error of 4.1 percent, according to the campaign. It was conducted by Pathway Polling, a firm started by former Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald that has been running opinion polls for the Kelley campaign.

Kelley finished second last week with 19 percent of the vote, turning in strong performances in Old Brooklyn – the neighborhood he represents on council – and West Park.

Bibb led the field of seven candidates in last week’s primary with 27 percent. The first-time candidate found his strongest support Downtown and on the Near West Side, while also pulling in votes from Shaker Square and West Park.

Bibb also won the most votes east of the Cuyahoga River, according to unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. But 58 percent of East Side voters split their support between Zack Reed, Basheer Jones and Sandra Williams – showing that both surviving campaigns have room to improve east of the river.

“I think we have a lot of work to do to grow our coalition on the East Side, but as the results showed, we did really well on the East Side and well on the West Side,” Bibb told Ideastream Public Media on Wednesday. “We want to have one, unified Cleveland, one, unified Cleveland focused on putting people and neighborhoods first, and that’s my commitment as the next mayor.”

Two days after the primary, Kelley was endorsed by Griffin outside of Woodhill Homes, a public housing development on the East Side. In an interview with Ideastream Public Media, Griffin said his and Kelley’s families have grown close during their time working together.

“On a personal level, I’ve come to respect and love the character and person that he is,” Griffin said. “Secondly, we know how to get stuff done. I’ve been shoulder to shoulder with Kevin. We’ve dealt with some of the most complex and vexing issues of our time: violent crime, lead exposure to children, infant mortality, and investing in distressed and socially, economically challenging communities like this.”

Woodhill Homes will soon undergo a massive overhaul with the help of a $35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Kelley emphasized the work council and Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration did to secure those funds after losing out on a grant last year.

“People like to use terms like ‘collaboration.’ It’s easy to use that word. It’s harder to do,” Kelley said. “We talk about transformation. It’s a great political talking point. It’s harder to do. But that’s what we’re doing right here.”

On Wednesday morning, Bibb received an endorsement from SEIU Local 1, the labor union that represents custodial workers at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. He gathered with union members in Local 1’s offices just east of Downtown.

“I am looking forward to new leadership,” Local 1 board member Sandra Ellington said. “I am looking for one Cleveland, not two Clevelands, because I don’t want us to get lost, and I don’t want us to lose. Today is the time for change, and the young will show us the way.”

The other service workers union to endorse Bibb, SEIU 1199, publicly fought with Kelley over raising Cleveland’s minimum wage in 2017. The union backed Sandra Williams in the primary, spending money on mailers and broadcast ads supporting her.

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