Monday, October 17, 2011
Uncharted Waters ahead in the 11th Congressional District
The worst kept political secret in town is state senator Nina Turner’s intent to challenge Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge in next year’s Democratic Party primary.
If the contest happens — and, while likely, it is by no means a done deal — the battle between two of the community’s best-known politicians could be epic.
A Fudge-Turner contest would have an immense impact on black community political life, no matter the victor.
Many of Cleveland’s black politicians are of the timid variety. They dodge and duck having to endorse a candidate if the outcome is not clear. But a Fudge-Turner faceoff, which could even attract other strong candidates looking to sneak to victory, would permit no bystanders.
The congressional district Fudge now represents was first drawn in 1968 in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The plum — the assurance of becoming Ohio’s first black Congressman — produced a mad rush of candidates, including legendary Cleveland City Council majority leader Charles V. Carr, and the ambitious eastside Cleveland councilman, George L. Forbes.
Louis Stokes, fresh off a huge legal victory before the U.S. Supreme Court [Terry v. Ohio, the seminal stop-and-frisk case], and hugely aided, of course, was the eventual winner, aided by his brother the mayor’s political machine.
Upon Lou Stokes’ retirement thirty years later in 1998, the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones resigned as county prosecutor and seized the seat with a resounding primary victory over the Rev. Marvin McMickle and then-state representative Jeff Johnson. She seemed poised to challenge Stokes’ longevity record until her sudden death in August 2008.
Lou Stokes stepped into the void after Jones’s death to manage an orderly though not uncontroversial transition of the congressional ring to Fudge, a Stephanie confidant and then-mayor of Warrensville Heights.
Fudge declared last Saturday in Richmond Heights that she would be running wherever the district lines wound up being drawn. Her announcement came at an 11th District Caucus town hall meeting, the day after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the handiwork of the Ohio Apportionment Board in securing a 75% favorable GOP-district set up could be challenged by voters in a November 2012 referendum.
That decision becomes relevant only if and when the Democrats can secure 231,000 valid signatures to force a statewide vote. At the moment, the decision creates uncertainty as to the primary date, the district’s outline, and the filing date for primary candidates.
Amidst all the uncertainty, Turner must decide soon whether she can raise enough money and secure enough endorsements to make at least a credible challenge to Fudge.
It is both ironic and sobering to realize that less than four years ago, neither Fudge nor Turner had a political profile that was discernible more than a few blocks from their respective residences.
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Your humble correspondent can be heard on the airwaves tomorrow over at the Civic Commons, where I will be delivering a three-minute commentary on the maddening obfuscations that assail even educated voters trying to decide how to vote on an issue where they have made up their minds but the ballot language leaves them scratching their heads.
The show starts at 12:30pm. Catch it on WJCU/88.7 FM.