CLEVELAND — Cleveland City Councilman Brian Mooney was recently elected as a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge, leaving his Ward 11 seat soon-to-be-vacant. On Monday, he announced who he believes should replace him in the legislature.
Mooney has recommended Council appoint longtime union laborer Danny Kelly to represent Ward 11, effective Jan. 12. The legislature must formally approve the selection, which it is expected to do at tonight's meeting.
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A native of Collinwood who has lived on the west side for the past two decades, Kelly has been a member of Building Laborers' Local 310 for 45 years and also worked as a student-family recruiter within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He previously ran for Council in 2015 in Ward 16, but finished fourth in the primary.
"A life-long champion of equity and fairness, he has spent his entire adult life standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with his fellow champions of working people," City Council said of Kelly in a written release. "Kelly has strong ties to the labor movement, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, and the City of Cleveland."
Since Kelly's appointment will take place more than two years prior to the next scheduled Council election in 2025, a special election to fill out the remainder of Mooney's term will take place later this year beginning with a nonpartisan primary in September. Kelly has not indicated if he will run for the seat, but did express his gratitude for his appointment.
"I am honored that Councilman Mooney has nominated me as his successor," Kelly said. "I raised four kids with a union book in my back pocket and will work hard for the residents in the ward."
Mooney himself was appointed to the seat in 2020 following Dona Brady's retirement and was elected to a full term a year later. However, the former assistant county prosecutor and assistant Ohio attorney general instead decided last fall to challenge longtime Judge Joan Synenberg for her common pleas position, and received the endorsement of Cuyahoga County Democrats in the process.
The race was one of the closest of this past cycle, and eventually an automatic recount took place. In the end, Mooney unseated Synenberg by just 1,156 votes out of more than 311,000 cast, and his six-year term on the bench will begin Thursday.
Following Synenberg's defeat, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Synenberg to another vacant common pleas seat, for which she would be able to seek reelection in 2024, if she chooses. The Bratenahl resident has served on the county's highest court for 16 years, and despite being in a heavily Democratic region received a rousing endorsement from the Plain Dealer's editorial board in her matchup against Mooney.
Ward 11 covers parts of Cleveland's Edgewater, Cudell, West Boulevard, Jefferson, and Bellaire-Puritas neighborhoods. When a member of Council resigns under good terms, legislators "traditionally" go along with that person's recommendation for a replacement.