Jeff Johnson at the Poles: Progressives Love Him, Others Want Him Out

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Johnson announces that he's running for Mayor at the County Board of Elections. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Johnson announces that he's running for Mayor at the County Board of Elections.
Last week, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus voted to endorse City Councilman Jeff Johnson in the Cleveland Mayoral race.

The endorsement is Johnson's second from a local progressive organization, his first being from the Service Employees International Union, and it has given Johnson additional ammo and cred as the "progressive" candidate in the race, one which is perceived as a battle between an entrenched incumbent (Frank Jackson) and the field.

CCPC was formed with about 300 members one year ago as an outgrowth of the local Bernie Sanders campaign effort. The organization is headquartered in Lakewood and has ballooned to nearly 3,000 members. CCPC's political director Steve Holecko attributes that rapid growth to the spirit of political activism in the wake of Donald Trump's election. Its members have organized and demonstrated around issues of wealth inequality, which locally include the fight for a higher minimum wage and opposition to the Q Deal.

Holecko estimated in a phone conversation with Scene that roughly 800 of the organization's members are Cleveland residents.

In addition to Johnson, CCPC endorsed eight Cleveland City Council candidates, none of whom are incumbents.
In its endorsement process, CCPC invited candidates who were interested in the endorsement to fill out two questionnaires. One was national and was provided by Our Revolution, a national progressive group, led by Nina Turner, of which CCPC is the local affiliate. The other questionnaire, called the "Cleveland Addendum," was locally focused. CCPC's membership voted on candidates based on their responses. In council races where only one candidate applied for the endorsement, Holecko said, CCPC members voted to approve or deny the candidate.

Only three mayoral candidates applied for the endorsement: Johnson, Brandon Chrostowski and Eric Brewer.

Johnson is himself a member of the Progressive Caucus, and Holecko said that the organization's steering committee was hopeful that Johnson would win the endorsement. Holecko said they made no efforts to tilt the results, but that roughly 70 percent of the Cleveland membership voted to endorse Johnson regardless.

"We're very closely aligned," Holecko said, of the group's platform and Johnson's.

The endorsement is good news for Johnson after a week of legal challenges. Last Monday, one of Johnson's competitors in the race, Eric Brewer, challenged his candidacy by suggesting he was actually a resident of Twinsburg. Brewer emailed Cuyahoga County elections Director Pat McDonald to make his case, but the complaint was filed too close to the election for the board to act. Cleveland.com's Robert Higgs reported that the elections board had already ruled on Johnson's residency. It dismissed an earlier complaint and ruled that Johnson's voting address was at his Glenville home.

Johnson has maintained that he lives in Cleveland — he is a "third-generation resident," of Glenville he says — but his wife and two stepdaughters do indeed live in Twinsburg, where the teenage girls attend Twinsburg City Schools.

On last week's Reporter's Roundtable on WCPN, the panel of journalists suggested that Brewer — who made news last week for not having voted since 2009 — was merely trying to stay relevant by challenging and/or distracting the race's top candidates.

Also last week, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a resident's legal challenge to Johson's candidacy after the challenger didn't bother to present any evidence. The challenge was an attempt to appeal the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections' unanimous ruling, in May, that Johnson was eligible to run.


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