WASHINGTON — Perhaps the first clue that Tuesday’s Democratic primary was different than other special elections is the unique shape of the 11thCongressional District of Ohio.
Stretching from the Euclid area down through Cleveland and winding its way to Akron, it’s one of the more gerrymandered districts in the state.
While special elections always generate local interest, few anticipated the race would generate as much national interest as it has received.
It’s on track to be the most expensive congressional election in 2021, with more donations coming in than other special elections that have been conducted around the country.
Secretary Marcia Fudge represented the district from 2008 until this year when President Biden selected her to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
At least $6 million have been raised by 13 candidates vying to replace her. Fundraising data shows donations have come in from around the country.
The two main candidates are:
Nina Turner, a former state senator, who has raised at least $3.8 million, and Shontel Brown, a Cuyahoga County councilwoman, who has raised at least $2 million.
But it’s really the endorsements that have made this race so high profile and so interesting beyond the Cleveland skyline.
Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, two elected officials who aren’t from Ohio but are progressive leaders nationally, have announced support for Turner.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Rep. James Clyburn, the third highest-ranking elected official in the House, are backing Brown.
So why are major figures like Clinton and Sanders getting involved in the Ohio race?
“This has really become a proxy fight between two wings of the Democratic party,” Kyle Kondick, a Cleveland native who analyzing politics nationwide at the University of Virginia explains.
“Certainly It’s kinda like 2016 all over again,” Kondik added.
“From Democratic leadership’s perspective, they look at Shontel Brown as someone who is closer to leadership, someone who may be a more reliable vote, less of a thorn in the side of leadership. Meanwhile, they view Nina Turner as someone more likely to rock the boat,” Kondick said.
While there may be more interest than usual from Washington and plenty of money being spent, It hasn’t necessarily translated into votes.
Early voting numbers show only around 15,000 people or so have returned their ballots so far in Cuyahoga County.
As a reminder, the winner of this primary election will be heavily favored to win the general election later this year based on historical election results in the district.