CLEVELAND, OH — Ohio’s 11th Congressional District spans from Cleveland to Akron, is majority Black and deeply Democratic.

What You Need To Know

  • Special election in OH-11 is underway after Marcia Fudge became Biden’s HUD Secretary

  • At least seven Democrats, including three Black women, are running to represent the deeply Democratic district

  • OH-11 has been represented by a Black woman for the last 22 years

  • The three women candidates spoke with Spectrum News about continuing that tradition

The late Congressman Louis Stokes made history as the first Black Ohioan elected to the U.S. House and he represented the region for 30 years.

Then, the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones took over in 1999 and made a name for herself before her sudden death in 2008.

Since then, OH-11 has been represented by Marcia Fudge, up until she became President Joe Biden’s secretary of housing and urban development.

Overall, the Cleveland area has had more than half a century of African American leadership and 22 years of Black women at the helm.

“There is a rich tradition in this district that I believe should be carried on,” Nina Turner told Spectrum News in a recent interview.

Turner, a former state senator, is one of three Black Democratic women running to succeed Fudge in a special election scheduled for later this year.

She said there’s pride in the district because of its Black leaders.

“This district made history,” Turner said. “And it was because of civil rights that it was able to make that kind of history, and that having that strong African American leadership is part of the fabric of this district.”

Turner, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, and former State Senator and State Rep. Shirley Smith each argue they are the right successor to represent the region.

Their politics differ in certain ways, but they agree that Fudge and Jones served a diverse community through policy and connectivity.

“We certainly need our voices at the table,” Brown told Spectrum News in an interview. “And I think that the leadership before me has demonstrated the strength and the ability to do the work in successful ways.”

Because the 11th District is drawn to favor Democrats, the primary for this special election is where the focus will be.

At least seven Democrats have jumped into the race. Turner and Brown are the early frontrunners, but a lot can happen between now and the Aug. 3 primary.

“I would prefer if it's going to be a Black district, to be a person that looks like that Black district,” Smith said in an interview Tuesday. 

Smith is hoping her years serving in the state legislature help set her apart.

She said the legacy of Black leadership matters to the district, but shouldn’t be the only reason people cast votes.

“There's a lot of factors involved in making a decision on who that person should be, and who should serve you,” Smith said. "I don't think it should just boil down to one factor.”

As Black Americans cope with the coronavirus pandemic and repeated instances of racial injustice, Brown said Jones and her mentor, Fudge, built a foundation based on representation.

“They always said, if you stay with the people, then the people will stay with you,” Brown said.

At least four other Democrats are competing in this primary: former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson, former State Rep. John Barnes Jr., former State Rep. Bryan Flannery, and Navy veteran and activist Tariq Shabazz.

On the Republican ticket, businesswoman and activist Laverne Gore is running again. She lost to Fudge in 2020 by 60 points.