AKRON, Ohio — Voters in the 11th Congressional District took the first step Tuesday toward choosing a new representative for northeast Ohio as Shontel Brown held off progressive Nina Turner to win the Democratic primary for an open U.S. House seat.
The contest Tuesday had emerged as a proxy for the future of the Democratic Party. Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair, had the support of Hillary Clinton, the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus and several leading unions.
She will vie to replace Rep. Marcia Fudge, who left to be President Joe Biden’s housing chief. The top Democrat and Republican will face off in the Nov. 2 general election in a district that includes Cleveland, much of Akron and other Summit County communities.
As the district has been a Democratic stronghold for decades, Brown is likely to win election to the seat in November.
In addition to her post as party chair, the 46-year-old Brown is a member of Cuyahoga County Council who started her political career as a city councilwoman in Warrensville Heights, where she still lives.
Cleveland native Turner, 53, was a Cleveland City Council member from 2006 to 2008 and a state senator from 2008 until 2014. She had a large fundraising advantage during the campaign.
Turner built a national profile working on Bernie Sanders' 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and is backed by members of the "Squad" in Congress.
The gerrymandered district includes much of Cleveland and Akron, connected by a narrow strip of land along the I-77 corridor. It been a solid Democratic refuge stretching back decades to civil rights attorney Louis Stokes, who was first elected to represent the Ohio 21st District in 1968.
Stokes was reelected to represent the 11th District following redistricting in 1993. Stephanie Tubbs Jones then replaced Stokes, serving from 1999 until her death in 2008.
Fudge then held the seat for nearly 13 years. She left in March. Fudge was reelected to a sixth full term in November 2020. The general election winner will complete the final year of her latest term.
Election Day reflections
Brown said that while touring the district on election day, she felt there was a lot of support.
"I couldn't be more excited ... the response has been very favorable, just going around the district," Brown said, adding she is now focused on the general election in November.
"I take nothing for granted," she added.
Beyond that, "I'm cultivating some relationships with my future colleagues, seeing what's on the agenda and the highest priorities to see if we can get some resources back to the district."
She noted the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.
"My priorities have always been health care and jobs," she said. "We're not completely out of the woods yet, we need to make sure folks have access to the vaccine, and then jobs were an issue, pre-pandemic."
She said the party plans to focus on supporting not only people who need jobs, but job creators as well.
Brown had earned the support of dozens of local Democratic "establishment" figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, more than a dozen area mayors, including Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan and former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. She also had support from dozens of area politicians, faith leaders, labor unions and others.
"As the chairwoman of the Democratic Party, I'm focused on bringing us together, uniting us," she said. "I understand that you need to work collaboratively to get things done."
Contributing: Haley BeMiller, Columbus Dispatch; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Shontel Brown wins Democratic primary for open US House seat in Ohio