CLEVELAND — The first votes in the race to replace Marcia Fudge in Congress will be cast Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. as early voting gets underway at the Cuyahoga and Summit County boards of elections in the August 3 special election primary.
On the Democratic side, there 13 hopefuls running for the nomination, but much attention has been focused on a race between primarily two: former State Senator Nina Turner and Cuyahoga Councilwoman and Democratic Party Chair Shontel Brown.
"Yes it is really, when you look at the endorsements, the amount of money that each of them has raised,” said News 5 Political Analyst Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace University. “The endorsements have been split pretty evenly among the city council people in Cleveland, state legislators,” he said. “Some are framing this as proxies for Biden vs. Bernie kind of race, but it's as much about the local politics as anything else."
The one endorsement that won't be coming is from the previous holder of the seat, now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, who told News 5 last month, “You know I cannot get involved in politics at all, so I won't be making any endorsements."
The Brown camp, though, came out with a bit of an end-around on that — a new ad featuring an endorsement from Secretary Fudge's mother.
"Marcia now serves in President Biden's cabinet so she can't endorse in the race for Congress, but I can,” Fudge’s mother said in the commercial. “Shontel Brown is Marcia's protege."
Protege is a powerful word when you look at the legacy of the seat. Fudge was a protege of the previous holder, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and she was a protege of the seat's original holder, Lou Stokes.
"And here we are now again with a special election to fill an empty seat and Marcia Fudge won't say, but the mother said and who is going to go against the mother?” said Sutton.
Hours for in-person early voting are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through July 23. Then they expand from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from July 26 to 30, with weekend hours added on the final weekend before the August 3 election.
While the district is home to 422,226 registered voters in the Cuyahoga County portion, 73% of them are non-partisan and only 23% are registered as Democrats, meaning just under 96,000 as of now could vote in the Democratic primary. As of Tuesday, about 3.3% of Cuyahoga County Democrats in the district had requested a vote by mail ballot.