Justin Bibb defeats Kevin Kelley for Cleveland mayor


Ideastream Public Media/Nick Castele

Justin Bibb (center), surrounded by supporters, gives his acceptance speech after becoming Cleveland’s next mayor.

Patrick Kane, World News Editor

The race for the next mayor of Cleveland, Ohio was a battle between a young, progressive upstart running for office for the first time going against the older, more moderate staple of municipal politics. After a month and a half of campaigning after the primary, it appears Cleveland has decided to take the risk, electing 34-year-old Justin Bibb to be the next Mayor of Cleveland, defeating City Council President Kevin Kelley in a bold statement by the city.

Bibb dominated, taking a substantial lead early on and never letting go. In the end, Bibb won a decisive victory over the more experienced Kelley, ending with a total of 63% to 37%. In addition, Bibb saw great success on Cleveland’s African-American heavy East Side. Meanwhile, Kelley only saw success in his native Old Brooklyn neighborhood and wards on the far West Side. Overall, Bibb walked away winning 12 of Cleveland’s 17 council wards, with half of them being with more than 70% of the vote.

Several factors contributed to Bibb’s victory. For one, Bibb was able to inspire a large, passionate base by painting himself as the solution to the political indifference experienced during the final few terms of Frank Jackson. Additionally, Kelley had the disadvantage of being an established politician, and spent a lot of the campaign attempting to outrun his record. This included working to deny signatures on the 2017 Q Referendum, as well as lobbying the state legislature to kill legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Ultimately, the baggage of a Kelley administration was rejected in favor of the potential of a Bibb administration.

Bibb, who was endorsed by The Plain Dealer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, will be the second-youngest mayor in Cleveland history, after his primary opponent Dennis Kucinich. Bibb gave his acceptance speech to supporters at Cleveland’s Olivet Institutional Baptist Church late Tuesday night. Summing up his hopes for the next four years, Bibb stated, “I won’t be a perfect mayor. I’ll make mistakes. But I’ll serve you well, and I’ll lead with honesty, integrity and transparency. Because those aren’t buzzwords. Those are values.”

As for Kelley, he will not be continuing his role as City Council President, as he retired in order to run for mayor. His successor is currently unclear, due to the influx of new members elected, but the frontrunners appear to be Councilman Kerry McCormack and Councilman Blaine Griffin.

JCU College Democrats member Max Malley ‘24 commented, “The type of energy that I witnessed [from the Bibb campaign] was infectious and reminds me of the affection that Bernie Sanders received in his two presidential campaigns. It is a rare kind of candidate that makes one not only want to vote but makes them excited to do so. ‘Cle Can’t Wait’ was not merely a slogan from the Bibb camp, but a rallying cry, a mantra, that his voters believed into the highest degree.” He finished with, “Cleveland won’t have to wait much longer; change is here.”

Justin Bibb will be inaugurated as the 58th Mayor of Cleveland on Jan. 2, 2022.