By Jason Sibert
It’s hard to find anyone in American politics who has kept to his convictions more than Dennis Kucinich. He reentered public life recently with an announcement of a run for mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. Kucinich has a long career in public service. He grew up in Cleveland, the son of a truck driver father and a homemaker mother. Kucinich started his political career with a run for Cleveland city council in 1967 which he lost. He won a seat on the council in 1969 and was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977.
His tenure as mayor (1977-1979) was considered one of the most tumultuous in the history of the city. He was the youngest mayor in the history of big city mayors, earning him the name “boy mayor.” During his time in office, Kucinich refused to sell the city’s publicly owned utility, Municipal Light. The Cleveland Mafia plotted to assassinate him in a contract killing, but the plot fell apart when he was hospitalized and missed the Columbus Day Parade. The Cleveland Trust Company, a bank, required the city’s debts to be paid in full, forcing the city into default. The company made the announcement after the news broke that the mayor would not sell the utility. Kucinich was defeated by George Voinovich in his reelection bid in 1979. In 1998, the Cleveland City Council honored him for having the “courage and foresight” to stand up to the banks. Municipal Light saved the city $185 million between 1985 and 1995. Kucinich’s stand for city-owned utilities should be considered a stand for social democracy, or what might be called “sewer socialism.”
Kucinich later served as an Ohio state senator (1995-1997) and United States Congressman (1997-2013). He’s voiced support for single-payer healthcare and a federal Department of Peace over the years. Kucinich is running for mayor on the establishment of a Cleveland Civic Peace Department which will identify hot spots in the city and intervene before the outbreak of violence. This Civic Peace Department will create new policies which address crime, both in prevention and rehabilitation, establish and coordinate new community-based violence prevention programs and conflict resolution strategies. The candidate for mayor also wants to work on drug addiction by decriminalizing nonviolent drug crimes and making battling addiction a priority. Social Democrats USA gives an enthusiastic endorsement to Kucinich in his run for mayor.
In other election news in the state of Ohio, Nina Turner ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the state’s 11th Congressional district. She was defeated by centrist Shontel Brown who was backed by the Democratic establishment, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Turner built a national profile working on Bernie Sanders’ campaigns for president in 2016 and 2020 and was backed by members of “the squad.” Turner served on the Cleveland City Council and in the Ohio Senate. She stood for Medicare for all, criminal justice reform, expanded public education, the Green New Deal, affordable housing, and a living wage.
She began the race with a 30-point lead in the polls and her opponent has been under investigation for ethics violations. With all that plus the energy of the progressive movement behind her, why did Nina Turner lose? First, as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ryan Grim pointed out, this was an open primary, so Republicans could vote – and apparently did – for the more conservative Shontel Brown Secondly, the Young Turks, a progressive talk show, said in a recent broadcast that big money interests moved in an gave Brown an advantage, which I don’t doubt is the truth. Of course, this is a case in point on why we need campaign finance reform, a key point in Sanders’ runs for the presidency. Progressives have shown their ability to organize in recent years in certain political races. However, perhaps we need to organize more!
Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project .