Sam Allard / Scene
Frank Jackson Campaign HQ (9/12/17)
Frank "Action" Jackson has won the Cleveland mayoral election and will become the city's longest-serving mayor. Jackson defeated City Councilman Zack Reed handily Tuesday night in a race that presented two unpopular candidates before an electorate bashed into apathy by years of bad and bloodless leadership. Reed conceded at about 11 p.m. Jackson will now embark upon the desert trek of his unprecedented fourth four-year term.
In the end, Jackson's utter lack of charisma, subservience to corporate power and propensity to hire ex-cons at City Hall (if they happen to be friends or political allies) were more palatable to Cleveland voters than Zack Reed's multiple DUIs, poor grammar, unsavory associations and streaks of political opportunism.
Even a boost from Cleveland's southeast side, where Reed lives, couldn't get the brash councilman over the edge. With nearly 80 percent of Cleveland precincts reporting, Reed had secured about 40 percent of the vote to Jackson's 60 percent. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections notes that these results are unofficial, but the gap is not surmountable. (The 60/40 split was consistent with the early voting results as well.)
Jackson's victory is in one sense unremarkable: he vastly outspent Reed, and candidates who spend the most money in elections win virtually every time. But Jackson's campaign was also a disaster, marked by frequent, embarrassing communications snafus.
Last week, WKYC reported on the hiring of Lance Mason, the former county judge who, only two months after being released from prison for violently assaulting his wife, was hired by City Hall. The report led to two scathing editorials in this Sunday's PD. But the news evidently did little to sway undecided voters.
What could they do but abstain?
With only an estimated 23 percent turnout, the real takeaway from Tuesday's election was the lack of civic engagement in the region and the disappointing slate of candidates. The mayoral battle was a classic "lesser of two evils" brawl, and the negative news about Jackson or Reed these past few weeks may have only further discouraged voters from bothering with the election at all.
In a city neck-deep in apathy and distrust, this was very nearly the worst and least inspiring election imaginable.