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State Sen. Sandra Williams Jumps Into Cleveland Mayoral Race

State Sen. Sandra Williams addresses supporters at her mayoral campaign kickoff Monday. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
State Sen. Sandra Williams addresses supporters at her mayoral campaign kickoff Monday.

Updated: 3:22 p.m., Monday, May 3, 2021

State Sen. Sandra Williams became the latest entrant in the Cleveland mayoral race Monday, joining a crowded contest that could give the city its first new mayor in 16 years.

Joined by family and supporters, Williams kicked off her campaign at the Harvard Community Services Center in the city’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood.

If elected, she would be Cleveland’s first Black woman mayor and only the second woman to hold the position.

“Our city needs a woman,” Williams told supporters Monday. “A woman who has a history of delivering real results to the city of Cleveland.”

Williams, a Democrat, has served in the state legislature since 2007. Several Democratic Statehouse colleagues stood at her side to endorse her Monday: state Reps. Stephanie Howse and Juanita Brent and state Sens. Nickie Antonio and Kenny Yuko.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, who served as speaker of the Ohio House the last time Democrats held the majority in Columbus, praised Williams’ legislative record – including her support for the Mayor Frank Jackson’s school transformation plan.

Williams pledged a focus on inequality, saying that she would create an “office of community wealth building” within her administration.

“I see a city of opportunity where economic, racial and gender inequality is extinguished,” she said. “Where a great education is in reach of every child within our city, and it should not matter where your ZIP code is.”

She also promised to work to bring down crime in the city, a priority echoed by a number of other mayoral candidates.

“I also see a city where fear and crime have plummeted,” Williams said. “No more should we be worried about going outside at night, going to the grocery store and getting robbed or being shot just for being in the community.”

Williams graduated from Cleveland’s John Hay High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, going on to earn degrees from Cleveland State University and Tiffin University.

As a state legislator, Williams sponsored bills requiring schools to notify parents within two hours if students do not show up for class, a measure spurred by the murder of Cleveland teen Alianna DeFreeze.

Williams also supported the nuclear bailout package known as House Bill 6, which is now at the center of a federal investigation. She has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case. 

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has not said whether he will seek a fifth term in office, but as of January, his campaign committee had not raised any money. The mayor plans an  “important tele town hall” Thursday, fueling speculation that he may make his 2021 intentions known then.

Numerous candidates are  circulating petitions to get on the ballot, including  former Cleveland City Councilman Zack ReedCouncil President Kevin Kelley and  former RTA board member Justin BibbFormer U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich has formed a campaign committee to raise money for a possible bid.

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