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Kucinich Leads In Latest Mayoral Fundraising, Kelley Tops In Spending

The seven Cleveland mayoral candidates speak at a forum in the Tremont neighbrohood in August. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland mayoral candidates Justin Bibb, Kevin Kelley, Zack Reed, Dennis Kucinich, Sandra Williams, Basheer Jones and Ross DiBello speak at a forum in Tremont

Dennis Kucinich led the field of Cleveland mayoral hopefuls in the latest round of campaign fundraising, although Kevin Kelley, Justin Bibb and Basheer Jones outspent him.

Kucinich reported $235,411 in contributions from July through Aug. 25, according to unaudited campaign disclosures filed Thursday. Following him were Bibb, who reported $218,664, and Kelley, who raised $185,415.

But it was Kelley who spent the most money over the last two months, reporting $641,974 in expenditures. Much of that money – $400,000 – went to the communications firm Falls & Company for a media buy that included television ads. The council president reported $80,576 on hand as the campaign enters its final days.

Kucinich also reported spending most of his money, leaving just $45,631 at the end of the fundraising period. But unlike Kelley, Kucinich has largely avoided broadcast advertising, pouring his resources instead into a flurry of campaign mailers.

Restaurateur Tony George and several relatives made $5,000 contributions to Kucinich, the maximum allowed. So did several members of the Kassouf property investment family.  

Among Kucinich’s other maximum contributors were former clerk of courts and 1989 mayoral candidate Benny Bonanno, businessman and former U.S.Ambassador to Ireland Ed Crawford and former Brook Park Mayor Tom Coyne. Kucinich also reported a $250 contribution from former U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration.

Kelley’s $5,000-maximum contributors included Raymond Park of Park Corporation and former Jones Day managing partner Dick Pogue. He also received $5,000 each from Whitney Haslam Johnson – an executive at Pilot Flying J and the daughter of Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam – and her husband, James W. Johnson.

Bibb largely raised his money from a broad base of smaller contributors. He received only a few max donations: from developer Robert Stark, Mark Saltzman of manufacturer Buyers Products and Barbara Rosskamm, who is married to former Jo-Ann Stores CEO and current Breakthrough Schools CEO Alan Rosskamm.

Like Kelley, Bibb also bought ad time on TV. He reported $93,813 in payments to Burges & Burges Strategists for media buys. In all, Bibb reported $395,985 in spending over the last two months, with $90,400 left on hand.

Although the public has seen few opinion polls of this race, several conducted their own internal polling. Kelley reported a $3,700 payment to Pathway Polling, a firm started by former Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. Bibb reported $121,500 in payments to Global Strategy Group, a Democratic polling firm with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. Jones reported a $29,600 payment to The Mellman Group, a Washington, D.C.-based polling and data analytics firm.

Jones, who led the field in fundraising in the first part of the year, reported only $38,145 in contributions in this latest disclosure. Unlike the other candidates, his filing covered a shorter time period: from the end of July through the end of August. Jones reported a number of July contributions in his previous filing.

Still, Jones enters the final stretch of the campaign with the most money on hand: $103,297. He reported $247,535 in spending, including $15,000 for radio ads on Radio One stations.

State Sen. Sandra Williams raised $77,733 over the last two months, much of it in smaller donations. Her max contributors included Ruth and Robert Kanner of Pubco Corporation, who also gave money to Kelley and Kucinich. Williams also received $2,500 from the Cleveland Teachers Union.

Zack Reed reported $69,565 in contributions. He received $1,000 from his brother, Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers, and $3,500 total from Joseph and Anthony Cifani of the construction firm Perk Company. Bonanno, the Kucinich contributor and former mayoral candidate, gave Reed $1,000.

Ross DiBello raised $1,817, reporting $4,186 on hand.

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