Justin Bibb Wins. To Become New Mayor of Cleveland – November 2, 2021

Cleveland voters elected Justin Bibb as the city’s next mayor by a substantial margin Tuesday night. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Justin Bibb elected mayor of Cleveland in resounding victory over Kevin Kelley by Lee Chilcote, The Land Nov 2, 2021, click here

After Jackson, Ideastream by Nick Castele (podcasts and articles), click here
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is retiring, and for the first time in 16 years, City Hall is getting a new leader. What do the seven candidates offer? What do voters want? Host Nick Castele goes on the campaign trail in “After Jackson: Cleveland’s Next Mayor” from Ideastream Public Media.

Justin M. Bibb was elected mayor of Cleveland on Tuesday, paving the way for a handoff of power between the city’s longest-tenured leader and a 34-year-old newcomer who promised a fresh start. by Nick Castele and Taylor Heggerty, Nov 3, 202click here

Justin Bibb has defeated City Council President Kevin Kelley in the 2021 Cleveland mayoral election and will succeed four-term incumbent Frank G. Jackson. by Sam Allard, Cleveland Scene Nov 3, 2021. Click here

Justin Bibb’s really big thing in a Cleveland election that was all about change: Brent Larkin, Nov 7, 2021. Click here

CLEVELAND — On the day after his life changed forever, Cleveland’s next mayor got a glimpse of his future.

As well-wishers paraded by his lunch table at the Diner on 55th, one stopped to offer a kindly hug and quiet prayer. The Rev. Stephen Kosinski, a priest at St. Stanislaus Church in the Fleet Avenue neighborhood, had never met Justin Bibb, but knew what had just happened to him.

“Bless you,” Father Kosinski said softly.

He’ll need it.

Not a whole lot in Bibb’s 34 years has prepared him for the task ahead. But that mattered not at all to nearly 63% of those who bothered to cast ballots in Cleveland’s mayoral election. To them, Bibb was tomorrow’s candidate. His opponent, the experienced Council President Kevin Kelley, was yesterday’s.

This had been clear since the Sept. 14 primary election, when Bibb ran first and beat down former Mayor Dennis Kucinich in West Park, the city’s biggest voting neighborhood. Cleveland politics is changing, probably for the better.

Kelley and his campaign team never figured it out. Team Bibb outhustled and outthought their opponent at every turn. The result was an epic beatdown, maybe the most remarkable win I’ve seen in nearly 52 years of paying attention to these things. At least the equal of Michael White’s dramatic Cleveland mayoral win 32 years ago. (Note: White also saw this coming).

Bibb is smart and personable. On paper, Kelley was much more qualified. But Bibb and his campaign’s two strategists, Ryan Puente and Bill Burges, took the risk that white voters, especially young ones, might be willing to look past the city’s tired old history of racial politics and support someone who promised change.

Maybe they were lucky. Maybe they were visionaries. What we know for certain is they were right. On Nov. 2, Clevelanders who bothered to participate in the democratic process voted overwhelmingly to break from the past. Kelley got beat in parts of the West Side he would have won in a landslide if he’d been running 40 years ago against a Black opponent.

It was no better for Kelley east of the Cuyahoga, where the council president’s supporters thought Bibb’s lack of support from Black councilmen would limit the size of his win. It should have been clear that support for Bibb from nearly 80 Black ministers mattered infinitely more. It was another mind-numbing miscalculation, as Bibb crushed Kelley everywhere on the East Side, especially in the vote-rich southeast part of Cleveland, where Bibb’s defeated mayoral primary election rival Zack Reed worked indefatigably on the winner’s behalf.

But Bibb had an unwitting ally in all this. For months, Mayor Frank Jackson delayed announcing whether he would run for a fifth term, leaving in the lurch Kelley and another potential candidate, Councilman Blaine Griffin. While Kelley waited, Bibb campaigned tirelessly,

Back then, few took Bibb seriously. And some who later supported him dismissed Bibb as a lightweight.

“I was running by myself for five months,” said Bibb, with genuine astonishment. “I might not have won without that.”

Kelley got into politics for the right reasons. If he’s bitter about how Jackson hurt him, he has reason to be. The mayor’s dithering was selfish and wrong.

Bibb will be the least experienced mayor in the city’s history. To that, a huge majority of the voters collectively replied, “So what?”

So now it’s time to shelve concerns about his resume and youth, time to give him a chance to govern with creativity. I’m not sure the people who didn’t see this coming deserve a seat at the table, though Bibb will probably graciously give them one, anyway.

Sure, Bibb’s inexperience makes this a bit of a “hold your breath” moment. But those who worry Bibb will surround himself with other newcomers are probably mistaken.

“We will hire smart people, young and old, with diverse sets of experiences,” he told me. “And I am going to be thoughtful and deliberative about the entire process.”

Bibb’s election represents a historic change in the way people in the city vote. It doesn’t mean he’ll be a great mayor. It does mean he did a great thing.

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.

In mirror he sees color of success by Regina Brett, Plain Dealer Sept 7, 2007

In mirror he sees color of success

September 7, 2007 | The Plain Dealer

Justin Bibb still gets accused of acting white.

He was a seventh-grader at Shaker Middle School when I first met and interviewed him. That was seven years ago.

Back then, some black kids tormented Justin for being smart. They spit on his food at lunch. Called him names. Punched him. One day in the restroom, they urinated on his daily planner.

Back then, Justin cried himself to sleep some nights. His dad put him in private school after a boy picked up Justin and dropped him on his head in gym class.

Back then, a black principal suggested to Justin’s parents that his interests – debate and studying hard – were too white.

Last week, I was sitting at a restaurant when a tall, GQ-handsome black man in a crisp black suit and deep purple dress shirt called out my name. I recognized his eyes.

Justin Bibb.

He’s 20. He left Shaker Heights for Orange Christian Academy and went on to graduate from Trinity High School. He’s a junior at American University in Washington, D.C.

He interned his freshman year with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas. Sophomore year, he interned with Sen. Barack Obama. He was elected president of his pre-law fraternity.

He got a scholarship to study urban issues in one of the poorest neighborhoods in D.C. He created a nonprofit called D.C. Today-D.C. Tomorrow to help students create service projects and become leaders.

Justin interned this summer at the Cleveland Clinic. He leaves in two weeks to study abroad. He’s spending his junior year at the London School of Economics.

The boy he once was told me, “Why can’t I be who I am?”

The man he is gets quiet about that painful time.

“I didn’t really know who I was,” he said. “Kids were calling me white, yet I look in the mirror and see an African-American male.”

Justin grew up in Cleveland where his mom taught him to dress for success, for the part you want in life. His first day of school, he wore a buttoned-down dress shirt tucked into khakis. The taunting began.

Justin has straddled two worlds, splitting time with his mom in Cleveland and his dad in Shaker. He has caddied at a country club and has worked construction jobs in the inner city.

At college, he sees too few black males. In some classes, he’s the only one.

“The spotlight is on you. You represent the black race,” he said. “I’m on the path not just for me, but to help another brother. I represent them.”

Justin believes every success he makes will show others that blacks are so much more than what TV and movies depict.

He tells kids it’s not acting white to be successful. He reminds them that Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X both wore a suit and tie.

“We’ve lost that sense of history,” he said.

He doubts the stereotyping will stop anytime soon. The key, he said, is don’t let it stop you.

Justin has no regrets. His experience at Shaker taught him a message he passes along to every child who wants to achieve:

“Dream big,” he said. “The dream has to be greater than the struggle.”

Join Regina Brett today at 9 a.m. on WCPN FM/90.3, where she hosts “The Sound of Ideas” every Friday. Today’s topic: “Reading. What’s on your nightstand?” To reach Regina Brett: rbrett@plaind.com, 216-999-6328

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