Maurer Mounts Stout Challenge, Gray Sisters Prevail, Ken Johnson Falls, and Other Highlights from the City Council Primaries


  • Courtesy Rebecca Maurer

CLASH attorney and neighborhood activist Rebecca Maurer nearly defeated incumbent Anthony Brancatelli in the Ward 12 City Council primary Tuesday. Maurer fared best among candidates taking on incumbents, winning 42% of the vote, compared to Brancatelli's 46%.

The results in the Slavic Village-Old Brooklyn ward, one of only two Cleveland wards that occupy both sides of the Cuyahoga, promise a fierce November runoff in which Brancatelli can be expected to marshal his clout and council resources to fend off the justice and transparency advocate, who launched her campaign with a public engagement pledge that other progressive challengers embraced. Maurer's primary success suggests that with a tireless ground game — she has been canvassing Ward 12 on a nightly basis for months — incumbents can indeed be effectively dislodged, or at least made extremely uncomfortable.

Ward 5 was the only other ward where an incumbent did not win decisively. There, Delores Gray, who was appointed to replace Phyllis Cleveland only a few months ago, narrowly defeated Richard Starr, who ran in 2017. Starr, 32, grew up in the King-Kennedy housing complex and received the endorsement of the PD/ editorial board, though Gray refused to participate.

If Gray defeats Starr in November, Cleveland could see twin sisters on council for the first time ever. Gray's sister Deborah was the top vote-getter in Ward 4. She'll go head to head with librarian Erick Walker in the November general. Both have received a number of endorsements from neighborhood groups.  Disgraced councilman Ken Johnson, who will be sentenced next month for his thefts in office, remained on the ballot there. He came in fifth out of 11 candidates, though could not have served even if he'd won, due to his felony conviction.

Ward 11 featured an incumbent who was recently appointed as well. Brian Mooney managed to collect 46% of the vote in the low turnout west side ward, but could face a stiff challenge from educator Michael Hardy (29%), especially if Hardy can consolidate support from third-place finisher Donna Woods (25%).

Ward 7 featured two known quantities in Hough: statehouse Rep. Stephanie Howse and former councilman TJ Dow. Both will advance to the general, though neither eclipsed 30% of the ward vote. With 11 candidates in the primary race, they'll have their work cut out for them. 

In the other races, incumbents won handily. In Ward 1, incumbent Joe Jones (66%) will face Kimberly Brown (27%) in the runoff. In Ward 2, incumbent Kevin Bishop (74%) will go up against Monique Moore (13%). In Ward 3, incumbent Kerry McCormack will take on young environmentalist Ayat Amin (20%). In Ward 8, council artifact Mike Polensek (77%) will go head to head with Black Lives Matter activist Aisia Jones (17%). And in Ward 17, Charles Slife (57%) must withstand another frontal assault from West Park's own Mary Kathleen O'Malley (29%). 

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