Sam Allard / Scene
Dennis! joins the Cleveland clown car.
Two days before the filing deadline and months after the rumors began, former mayor, congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has declared for the 2021 Cleveland Mayoral race.
Standing before the script Cleveland sign in Tremont – where, Kucinich reminisced, it all began
— Kucinich said that the city of Cleveland needed both a “steady, experienced hand” and a leader with “bold, visionary ideas” as it emerges from the pandemic and a period of sustained violence and poverty.
The particulars of his platform will be released in detail in the coming weeks. But Monday, Kucinich chose to focus on what he said was the most pressing issue in Cleveland today: safety.
On that topic, Kucinich’s stance was qualified, striking a balance between pro- and anti-police factions locally. We must support the police who risk their lives every day on the one hand, he said, but “question police and take appropriate disciplinary action” when they violate internal rules or breach civil rights.
Kucinich said that moping by current leaders about violence was no solution. Action is required. He pledged to hire 400 new police officers and 100 new police assistants to be more responsive to crime. He also wants to create a “Civic Peace Department” and launch a nonviolence curriculum in the Cleveland schools – a variation on a proposal he dreamed up 20 years ago in congress – which he said would address all forms of violence in Cleveland.
Kucinich was the youngest mayor in Cleveland’s history, serving from 1977 to 1979 during a tumultuous era in which he famously refused to privatize the Municipal Light and Electric Company, now CPP, under immense personal and political pressure. If elected, Kucinich, would become the city’s oldest mayor. He is exactly four days younger than Mayor Frank Jackson.
Kucinich’s current campaign hashtag, #LightUpCleveland, is a reference both to his Muny Light history, his plan to literally brighten streets with brighter streetlights, and his view on the city’s need for an attitude adjustment.
“I am ready from day one to take the city in a new, upbeat, can-do direction,” he said. When asked what took him so long to formally declare his candidacy, he said, “It’s right on time.”
A recent Baldwin-Wallace poll found that Kucinich enjoys more name recognition than any other candidate in the race.
Elsewhere on the mayoral beat, candidates Sandra Williams, Zack Reed and Justin Bibb filed their petitions at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections last week. Assuming at least 3,000 of their submitted signatures are valid, they will appear on the Sep. 14 primary ballot.
Bibb noted that his signatures were gathered by 235 volunteer circulators and said that the effort was indicative of his campaign's grassroots appeal.
“Residents told us they want to see new leadership and a fresh perspective in City Hall and I’ll be that Mayor," Bibb said in a press release. "Clevelanders are looking for a leader who will fight for our future with a sense of urgency and energy that we are missing right now. I believe I am the right leader for the right time and our moment has arrived."
In a phone call from the BOE, Bibb told Scene that in the coming weeks, he plans to continue attending fundraisers and meet and greets and knocking on doors citywide.
"We're hitting the pavement as hard as we possibly can," he said, "spreading the word that Cleveland can't wait for new leadership."
Council President Kevin Kelley will reportedly file his petitions Wednesday. Kelley released a statement after Kucinich’s press conference.
“This election is about the future,” he said. “Our city has made great progress in digging out from the dark days of the past. We cannot afford to go back.”
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.