FEATURED PHOTO: MAYOR BRANDON KING EAST CLEVELAND
IdeastsreamPublicMedia.org, By Abigail Bottar-WKSU, Posted November 11th 2022
East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King narrowly survived a recall effort Tuesday night while voters simultaneously ousted council vice president Ernest Smith, a ward 3 councilman who also faced recall.
With all votes from all 15 precincts counted, unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reveal that 51 percent of East Cleveland voters voted against the mayoral recall (1,254 voters) and 49 percent voted for the measure (1,226 voters). Smith lost his attempt to escape recall by 16 percentage points, 58 percent (534 for recall votes) to 42 percent (38 against recall votes).
King survived recall by 18 votes.
Community activists seeking to recall the mayor submitted certified 322 valid petition signatures earlier this year to the board of elections for the recall effort,11 more than the 311 needed to put the issue before voters. Council Vice President Ernest Smith is also the subject of a recall effort.
Also on the ballot in Ohio on Tuesday were statewide races, legislative seats, judgeship’s, congressional and local offices, some state and local ballot issues, and a controversial U.S. Senate seat. Most notably is a gubernatorial election and the nationally watched fight for a U.S. Senate seat.
Council President and seasoned councilman at large Nathaniel Martin would have stepped up as mayor until a runoff election could have be held in early 2023, had king been recalled, and per the city charter. City council will appoint a replacement for Ernest Smith, a community activist, also per the city charter.
Governed by a mayor and city council, East Cleveland is a 99 percent Black and impoverished suburb of Cleveland. It has a population of some 14,000 people and 59 percent of household income is less than $25,000. It is one of the poorest cities in Ohio with a majority of its residents living below the poverty line. Its mayor and members of city council are all Democrats
The city has been under fiscal emergency for the last decade.
William Fambrough, who supported Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy in her unsuccessful effort to unseat King via last year’s primary election is spearheading the recall effort as a member of a citizens group that says King has permitted police to abuse their power and that he and police are undermining city council’s authority.The mayor is also accused of misappropriating city monies and retaliating against his political rivals with malicious prosecutions at the hands of city law director Simmons.
The mayor’s supporters say that he is a relief from his mayoral predecessor, former mayor Gary Norton, and that the recall effort was nothing more than an attempt to get rid of Black leaders in East Cleveland Also at issue is the mayor’s embattled police force.
Tuesday’s recall election follows string of police indictments of the mayor’s embattled police force, including chief of police Scott Gardner, who is White and is out on administrative leave without pay. Gardner has pleaded not guilty and faces several felony charges, including theft in office and grand theft. The indicted patrol officers, also on leave, are accused of pulling over Blacks and harassing them and stealing from them.
Then the vice president of city council, King succeeded former mayor Gary Norton into office in December of 2016 by succession, and after East Cleveland voters recalled Norton and the council president. That successful recall effort was organized by activists who complained that Norton was fiscally irresponsible and was supporting a now defunct merger proposal with East Cleveland and neighboring Cleveland King has since won election in 2017 and reelection in 2021.