Wednesday, September 8, 2010

FitzGerald Beats Hamilton Brown For Nominee For County Executive As Blacks Are Nominated For 4 of 11 County Council Seats In Democratic Primary

By Kathy Wray Coleman, Editor of the DeterminerWeekly.Com and
the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog and Media Network

County Exexcutive Candidate and Lakewood Mayor Edward FitzGerald
Former County Executive Candidate Terri Hamilton Brown
County Council Candidate Yvonne Conwell
County Council Candidate Pernel Jones Jr.
County Council Candidate C. Ellen Conally
County Council Candidate Julian Rogers
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson
Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-11)
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason
Former County Council Candidate John A. Boyd

The Black candidate for the Cuyahoga County Executive slot that key Black leaders such as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-11) were pushing lost to suburban Lakewood, Oh. Mayor Edward FitzGerald in Tuesday's Democratic primary election. A favorite of union leaders and hardcore White Democrats, and the endorsed candidate of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, FitzGerald beat Terri Hamilton Brown 48, 720 votes to 32,089 with 1050 of 1068 precincts reporting, unofficial results of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reveal.

Cuyahoga County voters last year adopted a charter amendment dubbed Issue 6 that is the impetus behind Tuesday's Democratic and Republican primaries where voters elected Democratic and Republican nominees for the county executive job and the 11 member County Council. The new form of government swaps the current elected positions of the three-member Board of Commissioners, county sheriff, clerk of courts, engineer, recorder, auditor and coroner with a mayor-type county executive and an 11 member County Council that will in January begin appointing people to all but the position of commissioner, which county voters eliminated last year in adopting Issue 6. The three-member Board of Commissioners will also leave their elected positions in January, the charter amendment somewhat denotes, though some argue via a pending lawsuit filed in June by County Recorder Lillian Greene in Federal District Court that the charter amendment is unconstitutional and that it actually releases the elected officials when their current terms are up, and some, like Greene's and seven others, extend beyond January of next year.

On Tuesday voters were limited to choosing either a Democrat or Republican on the ballot from their respective districts for County Council and all could vote on the county executive, a job that pays $175 thousand annually in comparison to the $45 thousand a year County Council position, which is part time.

Cleveland, which is roughly 57 percent Black, is a city in Cuyahoga County, Ohio's largest county. And the county has a Black population of 23 percent with some 52 percent of its voters registering Independent, 38 percent Democratic, and 10 percent Republican, according to the database of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Though FitzGerald, 42, who will face Republican nominee Matt Dolan and any Independents in the November 2 general election, was clearly a favorite early on, some Blacks say that Jackson, Fudge and other Black leaders that backed Hamilton Brown waited too late to flex their political muscle by coming out for her less than three months before Tuesday's election.

“What the Black leadership failed to do was to effectively organize and to develop strategies early on to protect the interests of the Black community regarding the county executive, the 11 seats for the County Council, and the whole idea of the change in county government,” said Cleveland Ward 6 Precinct Committeeman John A. Boyd, a Democratic candidate for the District 8 County Council seat who came in fourth, losing to Pernel Jones Jr., a local funeral home operator who handily won the race. “The whole restructuring of county government was designed to disenfranchise and undermine the political strength and power of the African-American community and Cuyahoga County Democratic Prosecutor Bill Mason was the architect of it all.”

A former top official with the administration of former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White and previous President of University Circle Inc. who is also credited with turning around the Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Housing Authority as its former executive director, Hamilton Brown, 48, who finished second, began gaining more yardage as the election progressed. But the popular FitzGerald, whose campaign gained momentum from the start, could not be stopped. Others in the Democratic primary race for the executive seat that pitted the core White faction of the county's Democratic party against Cleveland's Black leadership, were Dianna Lynn Hill and James F. Brown.

Mason, whom himself has come under fire by the Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper for allegedly having a peculiar interest in a public contract , sparred with Black leaders and the Cleveland NAACP, who accused him of crafting Issue 6 without input from Black leaders and in a manner that hurts the Black community.

Boyd said that Mason's claim that the new form of government is good for all concerned, including Blacks, is ludicrous and that crafting the 11 districts for the County Council seats with only three seats for Blacks that can be overpowered by the others is suspect and eliminates an independent Black voice that the current elected set up has via Peter Lawson Jones as County Commissioner and Greene, the only elected Black county officials aside from the judges.

“Bill Mason gerrymandered the 11 districts to the harm of the Black community by carving them to dilute Black influence, “ Boyd said, though on Tuesday Blacks actually won four of the 11 County Council seats or 37 percent relative to the Democratic primary, a figure higher than the 23 percent of Blacks in the county. That outcome could change in subsequent primary elections and will not likely appease the Black leadership that also argues that switching from elected positions such as county sheriff to an elected County Council and chief executive that appoints people to previously elected positions is still commensurate to taking away the right of Blacks and others to vote in county officials, though voters adopted the measure in approving Issue 6 last year.

In addition to Pernel Jones Jr. , the other three Blacks winning the Democratic primary for an opportunity to compete in November against any Republican nominees or Independents as a Democratic nominee for a seat on the 11-member Country Council are Yvonne Conwell in District 7, C. Ellen Conally in District 9 and Julian Rogers in District 10. Conally is a retired Cleveland Municipal Court judge who trounced her nearest opponent by more than tripling the vote and Conwell is the wife of Ward 9 Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell.

Community Activist Ada Averyhart, who worked at the polls in Cleveland on election day, said voter turnout was low, partly because voters were confused.

“Most people had no idea what that were voting for and so they stayed home on election day,” said Averyhart, a FitzGerald supporter.

According to Cuyahoga County Board of Elections spokesman Mike West, only 16 percent of registered voters turned out to vote on Tuesday.

“I voted for Terri Hamilton Brown because I believe that she is the most qualified," said community activist Willie Stokes. “I don't know much about Ed FitzGerald."

The candidacy of Hamilton Brown, whose husband Darnell Brown is the Chief Operations Officer for the City of Cleveland, was dogged by her association with the old guard as FitzGerald emerged as a “new day” candidate in the midst of an ongoing corruption probe of elected county officials , including judges of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora stepped down as chairperson of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party earlier this year, and to date some 30 others have pleaded guilty to corruption related charges relative to an FBI investigation that initiated two years ago with a raid on the homes of Dimora and County Auditor Frank Russo, neither of whom has been charged with a crime and both of whom say that they are innocent of any claims of illegalities in office.

FitzGerald is a licensed attorney, a former FBI agent and a former Assistant County Prosecutor under Mason.

Overall winners for the County Council seat in Tuesday's Democratic primary that will compete against the Republican nominees and any Independents in the November general electin are District 1- Nicole Dailey Jones: District 2- Dale Miller; District 3-Dan Brady; District 4- Chuck Germana; District 5- Ann Marie Gonega; District 6- Frederick Taft; District 7- Yvonne Conwell; District 8 Pernel Jones Jr.; District 9- C. Ellen Conally; District 10- Julian Rogers; and, District 11- Sunny Simon.