CLEVELAND — Editor's Note: The above video features an interview with Cleveland Mayor-elect Justin Bibb and 3News' Mark Naymik on November 3, 2021
2021 marked a year of significant political change in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. While Frank Jackson served out his final days after 16 years as Cleveland's mayor, voters went to the polls to select his replacement. Also, Ohio's 11th Congressional district has a new representative, and there will be a new member of the U.S. Senate from the Buckeye State after next year.
As we prepare to turn the page to 2022, let's take a look back at the year that was with WKYC.com's top 10 political stories of 2021.
10. Former President Trump endorses ex-aide Max Miller in GOP primary race against Northeast Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez
The biggest political story of 2021 nationwide was the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 as a joint session of Congress was preparing to vote to certify Joe Biden's 2020 presidential election win over incumbent Donald Trump.
President Trump was ultimately impeached for his role in inciting the insurrection, with Northeast Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez one of ten House Republicans to vote in favor. Gonzalez faced immediate backlash from local, state, and national GOP members. Among the Republicans who decided to run against the former OSU and NFL receiver in 2022 was former Trump aide Max Miller.
Ultimately, Gonzalez decided not to seek another term in Congress.
9. Who will fill Rob Portman's U.S. Senate seat? A list of potential Ohio candidates including Jim Jordan, Jim Tressel and Dr. Amy Acton
A few weeks after the January 6 Capitol riot, longtime U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced that he would be retiring after his term runs out in 2022. The 65-year-old cited partisan gridlock and a long career commuting to Washington as the reasons for his decision.
Portman's announcement opened the door for candidates on both sides of the political aisle to put their hat in the ring. Rumors of potential candidates ranged from former Ohio State football coach and current Youngstown State University president Jim Tressel, to former Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton.
As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2022, the GOP candidate list includes former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, author J.D. Vance, and businessman Bernie Moreno. Rep. Tim Ryan is among the group of Democrats seeking to replace Portman.
8. Tired of seeing political yard signs? Get used to them, as Northeast Ohio cities look to change laws due to Supreme Court ruling
For almost 20 years, Brecksville's ordinance regulating political yard signs stayed on the books with no issues. But faced with complaints from residents about signs still hanging around long after the election, city officials realized they may not have the legal ground to enforce its long-standing ordinance.
Ordinances regulating political signs were ignored, until our fraught political times.
7. Video shows Cleveland mayoral candidate Basheer Jones declaring, 'Women are not our leaders. ... We are their leaders!'
In a short video clip that circulated on social media and among mayoral campaigns in July, Cleveland City Councilman and mayoral contender Basheer Jones urged men to not cede leadership to women in their households.
"I'm talking to the men," he says in the clip that was recorded on a cellphone from a larger video that bears Jones' Instagram handle @basheerj. "Where's the men? Why are we not leading the women? They are not our leaders. I don't care what they say. They are not our leaders. We are their leaders!"
"The content of the video was taken out of context. It was done years ago," Jones said in a statement to 3News' Mark Naymik. "I don't even have a copy of the video. However, I have the utmost respect for women and believe and know that women are great leaders. I was raised by a woman – my mother who was a leader and my greatest hero. Let's keep our focus on the important issues we're facing today – and that is making Cleveland a better and more united city."
6. Shontel Brown wins special election in Ohio's 11th Congressional District
After longtime Rep. Marcia Fudge joined the Biden administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the race was on to fill her spot in Congress from Ohio's 11th District. Two candidates set themselves apart from the rest of the field in the Democratic primary race: Cuyahoga County Councilmember and party chair, Shontel Brown, and former State Sen. Nina Turner.
Although polling and endorsements seems to give Turner the edge, it was Brown who ultimately prevailed in the August special primary election. Brown would then go on to defeat Laverne Gore in the November general election. She was sworn in several days later and has already been appointed to several key House committees.
5. Leading The Land: In-depth conversations with the Cleveland mayoral candidates
In the weeks leading up to the Cleveland mayoral primary election, 3News invited the seven candidates to step off the campaign trail to sit with Sara Shookman and Mark Naymik to talk about the issues at the center of this year’s race. All but one candidate -- Ross DiBello -- agreed to meet with 3News at Cleveland Public Theater for a one-on-one interview.
We pressed the candidates on key issues from crime and safety to the city’s economic recovery. To highlight their lighter side, we also questioned them about all things Cleveland, from their favorite park to their favorite mayor.
4. Ohio state senator caught driving during Zoom meeting with fake office background
An Ohio state senator made national headlines in May. Not for a bill he proposed, but for his attempt to conceal the fact that he was driving during a controlling board meeting on Zoom.
Early on during the meeting, Sen. Andrew Brenner can be seen sitting in the driver's seat of his car. Brenner eventually leaned forward and turned off the camera. When he returned, he was seen wearing his seatbelt and clearly driving, yet his Zoom background was that of a home office. The camera was off for a second time, before coming back with a blurred image of Brenner on the road while also having the office background.
All of this happened while Ohio lawmakers were considering a bill proposing stricter rules against cell phone use while driving, with a goal of cracking down on distracted driving in the state.
3. Justin Bibb is top vote-getter in Cleveland mayoral primary, will face Kevin Kelley in November election
Justin Bibb was a virtual unknown when he first announced his intention to run for mayor of Cleveland. The 34-year-old nonprofit executive faced no easy task in his bid to succeed Frank Jackson, as he faced off against six opponents in the September primary. The list of candidates included former Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich, who was trying to return to Cleveland City Hall 42 years after his first term. He also was pitted against Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley, former councilman Zack Reed, current councilman Basheer Jones, and State Sen. Sandra Williams.
In the end, Bibb was the top vote-getter with Kelley finishing second, setting up a showdown in November for the right to become the city's next mayor.
2. Former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel claims 2020 election was 'stolen from President Trump'
In February, former two-term Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel became the first Republican to formally declare a candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat to replace Rob Portman.
In an on-camera interview with 3News' Mark Naymik, Mandel pledged to carry on former President Donald Trump’s agenda and added that Trump's second impeachment pushed him into action.
Mandel said time will prove that Trump won the election.
"I think over time, we're going to see studies come out that evidence widespread fraud," he claimed. "You know, what you see with any type of fraud, it usually takes time to investigate it and to dig it out, and it might be months, it might be years, it might be decades. But I think when we look back on this election, we'll see in large part that it was stolen from President Trump."
1. 'Let's get to work': Justin Bibb elected mayor of Cleveland; Kevin Kelley concedes
Justin Bibb won the election to become Cleveland's 57th mayor on November 2. When he is sworn in next month, the 34-year-old Bibb will become the second youngest mayor in the city's history behind former mayor Dennis Kucinich, who was elected at age 31.
Bibb won decisively in the September primary and again in the general election over Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley without every holding public office. He campaigned on that outside status, arguing Cleveland needs change and new thinking.
"The work is just beginning," the mayor-elect said. "Tonight we will celebrate, and tomorrow we are going to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of moving our city forward, in a better direction."
Bibb will take the oath of office on January 3. He has made several key cabinet appointments and has summoned together many of the area's business, economic, health, and neighborhood leaders for his transition teams and task forces. Some of the names of note as part of Bibb's subcommittees include Destination Cleveland CEO David Gilbert on the Economic Development subcommittee, former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton serving on the Health subcommittee, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon on the Education subcommittee, and Cleveland Police Patrolman Association President Jeff Follmer on the Safety subcommittee.
More Year-in-Review stories:
- From Nightbirde to the Vax-A-Million lottery: These are the 10 top stories of 2021 in Northeast Ohio
- A Browns' playoff win, a new name for the baseball team, an emerging Cavs core and more: These are the 10 top sports stories of 2021 in Northeast Ohio
- Here are the top 10 most watched videos of 2021 for 3News