Cleveland's 1st Woman Mayor Faces Stiff Opposition

First-term Mayor Jane Campbell (search), bruised by a tough economy that contributed to police, fire and teacher layoffs, faces seven challengers in Tuesday's nonpartisan primary as she fights for her political life.

Campbell, 52, the city's first woman mayor, will face six fellow Democrats, including a one-time city council ally, and Republican David Lynch (search), a former suburban Euclid mayor who moved to Cleveland to run against her.

Regardless of party, the top two finishers will advance to the Nov. 8 general election. In a poll published last week in The Plain Dealer newspaper, Campbell was backed by 32 percent of the 625 registered voters surveyed and City Council President Frank Jackson, her former ally, came in second with 26 percent.

Robert Triozzi, who quit a municipal judgeship to run, had 14 percent. The others all were in single digits — Lynch, former state Safety Director James Draper, former Councilman Bill Patmon and two little-known community activists.

Politics professor Charles Burke at Baldwin-Wallace College said the economic problems and school concerns have created a "get Jane" political mentality, but he expects her and Jackson, 58, a soft-spoken 16-year council veteran, to advance to the general election.

If they do, the general election would pit Campbell, who is white, against a black candidate in a majority black city without the help of a key 2001 supporter from the black community. Four years ago, she benefited from the endorsement of the Rev. Otis Moss, but Moss stayed neutral this time.

Campbell and Jackson split two other big personal endorsements at stake, both Democratic members of Congress: Dennis Kucinich, himself a former Cleveland mayor, backs Campbell and Stephanie Tubbs Jones endorsed Jackson.

The incumbent has pointed to her experience as mayor to differentiate herself and said her administration streamlined permit processes, helped create a spurt in new housing and reformed what had been troubled law and budget departments at City Hall.

Campbell also has cited her efforts to create parkland along the Lake Erie waterfront, preserve a valuable airport hub, encourage health care and high-tech business growth and protect and expand a downtown military payroll office.

But teacher layoffs became part of the legacy for Campbell, who is Ohio's only mayor in control of local public schools. Last spring the issue was highlighted as short-handed police tried to stem a rash of violence in schools that lost 1,000 teachers over the past two years.

Last year more than 300 police officers and firefighters were also laid off.

"I have been systematically returning firefighters and police," Campbell said at a debate in response to a question from the firefighter union boss. "We cannot bring back police and firefighters we cannot pay."

Jackson said people in his crime-ridden Central neighborhood are afraid to walk or drive. "This is really personal with me, down to earth," said Jackson, who has mentioned family members in prison, addicted to drugs, homeless and jobless.

"What happens to Cleveland happens to me," he said.

The Plain Dealer poll had a margin of error of 4 percent and was conducted Sept. 20-22 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.