EAST CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - On September 12th, voters will go to the polls and cast their ballots for a range of candidates and issues.
The race for mayor of East Cleveland is among them. Today, a who's who came out to support the woman who helped start the first Black female law firm in Ohio.
Although proud of their city, 42.6 percent of East Cleveland residents live in poverty. The median household income is less than $20,000.
Politically, it has had a number of controversial mayors, including a mayoral recall in 2016. Today, a seasoned name and face announced a bid to become mayor of East Cleveland. Right off the bat, 11th Congressional District Congresswoman Marcia Fudge gives her support for an old friend.
"There are people who want to be good elected officials," said Fudge. "But some are just called people to be good public servants. Judge Keenon, who I've known since law school, was called to be a good public servant."
Congresswoman Fudge was among the heavy hitters to stand up and speak up for retired Judge Una Keenon. At 83 she still has the desire to serve.
"When I came to this city, the city was beautiful. But it started going down, down, down," she said.
Judge Keenon has lived in East Cleveland since 1986. One look around and it's impossible to refute that East Cleveland has seen better days. Even the street on which city hall sits is a mess with litter and dilapidated houses.
"I live in this city and I think we're being cheated, if that's what you want to call it, with the services we're getting and the kind of place that we're living in," she said.
East Cleveland, once a bedroom community, has a small tax base. Major businesses fled, taking good jobs with them. Then both White flight and Black flight took their toll. In 1990 the population was just over 33,000. In 2017, around 18,000 mostly poor people live in the city. One of its few remaining big businesses is GE.
"We in East Cleveland should have options. We should (have) banks, quality grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, even restaurants where we can sit outside."
Few would doubt Judge Keenon's qualifications, but few would deny it's going to be a heavy lift to transform East Cleveland.
According to City Data.com, East Cleveland residents with income below the poverty level in 2015: 49%, compared to the state of Ohio at 19%. Judge Keenon says she has a plan to fix that.
"First, I will develop a transition team with persons from all walks of life, business owners, corporations, East Cleveland citizens, especially."
In all, seven candidates, including current mayor Brandon King, Mansell Baker, Dana Hawkins, Jr., Una Keenon, Kari Oatman, Korean Stevenson and Devin Branch, want to be mayor of East Cleveland. Early voting has already started in Ohio.
The primary election day is September 12th.