Ohio’s 11th Congressional District Primary Election date set for August 3rd
by Bruce Checefsky
Plain Press, June 2021 Ohio’s 11th Congressional District is heavily gerrymandered to favor Democrats. The district is shaped by irregular lines as it snakes south from city of Cleveland and its prosperous eastern suburbs through Summit County and parts Akron and represents more than 700,000 Ohioans or roughly 6% of the state population. In 2018, there were 1.39 times more Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) residents in Congressional District 11 than any other race or ethnicity. Households in the district have a median annual income of $38,747, which is less than the median annual income of $61,937 across the entire United States.
When Marcia L. Fudge resigned from her seat in the United States House of Representatives after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the 18th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Biden, Governor Mike DeWine set a date of August 3, 2021 for the primary election where voters will weigh in on who will represent their party in the general election. Winners of the primary elections will then face off in the general election on November 2, 2021.
Nina Turner, a former State Senator, and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown have been raising funds for their campaigns ever since rumors surfaced about the vacant Congressional seat. As the election nears, both candidates have been spending at a brisk pace. Turner has raised more than twice the campaign funds than Brown. The field of candidates includes 10 Democrats and two Republicans all from Cuyahoga County.
Nina Turner made history in 2005 as the first African American woman to represent Ward 1 in Cleveland City Council, and again in 2008 as the first woman to serve as a state senator in Ohio’s 25th District. She became a national representative for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and national co-chair for Bernie 2020. Turner is campaigning for Congress on the strength of her experience as a politician, and her commitment as a community activist, she said during a recent phone conversation.
Turner believes poverty is a policy choice. Protecting and expanding Medicaid is a priority and providing Medicaid for all is a needed policy change. Health care is a basic human right, she acknowledges, and pharmaceutical companies have to be more responsive to the economic disparity that exists across the country. Bringing the price of drugs down and negotiating with pharmaceutical companies will prevent companies from gouging customers. She has a personal story to back up her concerns.
“My mother died when she was 42 years old. She was on and off of Medicaid for years. It’s like being on a roller coaster. It definitely diminishes your quality of life. We need to get the cost of health care under control,” said Turner.
Immigration reform needs more funding to ensure that people get a fair opportunity to immigrate to the United States. Children should not be kept in cages or taken from their caretakers. Preventing separation between families requires humane immigration reform.
“It’s long overdue,” said Turner. “We have the power and resources to reform the system.”
Climate change on a global level has an impact on immigration as people seek higher ground and places of safety. Industrial nations like the United States and other industrialized countries should find a way to collectively solve the climate change problems. Famine and food insecurities impact everyone.
“Whether substantive or political, people are being pushed and/or pulled from their country. We have to do something about it.”
The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel used along the Eastern Seaboard, shut down a few weeks ago after a ransomware attack highlighting cyber security vulnerabilities in the nation’s aging energy infrastructure. Turner would like to see the Federal government do more to protect consumers and businesses from cyber threats.
“Data is the new gold. We need regulations to protect consumers and hold businesses accountable, and ensure they have the best technology available to protect that data.”
Restoring transparency and accountability in the communities where police violence takes place requires a comprehensive investigation from outside entities, according to her. Police have been reluctant to release videos. Reports are often misrepresented and inaccurate. That has to change.
“If you talk to people in the Black community, the conversation is, ‘but if not for camera phones’ a lot of police violence would go unchecked,” said Turner. “We need to make sure the Federal government does the investigation on any police shooting, along with the State Attorney General, local government and police departments.”
“Law enforcement personnel need to have regular psychological reviews to make sure they’re fit for the job. We need to make it a felony if an officer lies on a police report.”
For Tuner, jobs and healthcare are the biggest issues facing the 11th District right now. With the poverty rate among the highest in the country, she would like to see poor people and working-class people get a chance to live their American dream. Increasing the minimum wage, health care as a human right, and canceling students’ debt are among her top priorities as a member of Congress. She would also like to see the Democrats win back a majority in the state legislature.
Turner is endorsed by MoveOn, a federal political committee which primarily helps members elect candidates who reflect their values through a variety of activities aimed at influencing the outcome of the next election; Progressive Democrats of America, Democracy for America, Our Revolution, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, as well as actors, activists and producers Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, and Mark Ruffalo.
A native of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown began her service as a Warrensville Heights city council member in 2012. She went on to be elected to Cuyahoga County Council where she currently serves. Her district is one of the most diverse in the County with constituents in the City of Cleveland, and inner and outer-ring suburbs. In 2017, Shontel was elected Chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. She made history as the first woman and the first Black person to serve in this role.
Brown is endorsed by The United Auto Workers Region 2B–the union that covers both Ohio and Indiana autoworkers. She has also received endorsements from U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, and several other major political figures in Northeast Ohio.
Brown has been critical of Turner’s stance on Israel and for her ‘lukewarm support’ for Biden in the presidential election. Turner did not back Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, according to her.
Against the backdrop of a campaign contrasting the candidate’s qualifications, Brown believes the top priorities for Congressional District 11include health care, jobs, and justice. Without a healthy society, jobs and justice won’t matter. Free, regular, and reliable COVID19 tests are needed along with equitable distribution of the vaccine.
“We have to provide lower heath care costs and expand coverage,” said Brown by phone. “When it comes to jobs, we have a labor force here that would benefit from these once in a lifetime investments and opportunities around replacing our decaying infrastructure. Communities need access to broad band internet service.”
Justice is a multi-pronged effort, according to Brown. Racial, social, and environmental justice is integrally connected. A holistic approach at addressing these issues is needed.
“I led the initiative for the resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis for Cuyahoga County. It wasn’t just a symbolic gesture,” she said. “The legislation was designed to make meaningful change.”
If elected to Congress, Brown vows to support the lowering of health care costs. She wants Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower drug costs. The Affordable Care Act is on the right track, but health care costs must be controlled so everyone can afford care.
“The American Recovery Act provided the biggest expansion to Obama Care. During President Biden’s special enrollment period, over a million people have signed up. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Innovation is important for protecting consumers and their data. Consumer protection and data privacy reform is needed. Limiting big tech companies that use private information for corporate gain requires investing in sophisticated private security.
“President Biden’s more than $2 trillion infrastructure and economic recovery package will make sure we have private security imbedded in those infrastructure investments,” said Brown
Environmental justice, the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, is part of her campaign platform. Brown supports the principals laid out in the Green New Deal (GND), which calls for public policy to address climate change along with achieving other social aims.
“I’m committed to plans that promote aggressive action to get climate change with net zero emissions by 2050 and carbon free power sector by 2035. We can provide jobs at the same time as bringing down the cost of electricity.”
Brown would prioritize Civil Rights laws if elected to congress along with advancing criminal justice reform, reducing gun violence, and ending the use of private prisons. She supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and data collection on police officers that use excessive force.
“Some of this is a cultural issue. The elimination of discriminatory policing practices is an important process to support when considering police reform.”
Her views on Immigration reform include supporting the Pathway to Citizenship proposal unveiled by the Democrats on Capitol Hill while opposing any efforts by the National Rifle Association (NRA) over gun control.
“We have to make better common sense gun laws,” said Brown.
Field of candidates
The candidates who filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and whose petitions were declared valid are: Former state Rep. John Barnes, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, Former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson, Former state Sen. Shirley Smith, Former state Sen. Nina Turner, James Jerome Bell, Will Knight, Pamela Pinkney, Isaac Powell, and Lateek Shabazz.
Two Republicans also filed to run for the seat in one of the most heavily Democratic leaning seats in the country: Laverne Gore and Felicia Washington Ross.
The primary for the special election will take place Aug. 3.