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Una H. R. Keenon launches bid for East Cleveland Mayor

Keenon speaks to supporters at the fundraiser and addresses her political platform, which includes a 10-point strategic plan for revitalization of East Cleveland, a plan she says she will implement if elected mayor

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio-Una H.R. Keenon, one of five officially declared candidates for the Sept. 12 primary election for East Cleveland mayor, greeted supporters, colleagues, friends and community members at recent fundraiser at her home on Cleviden Road, a supportive crowd that included Black elected officials, community activists, Black clergy, East Cleveland library trustees and board of education members, members of the Black Women's Political Action Committee, and Dr. Myrna Loy Corley, the superintendent of East Cleveland city schools.

The primary election for mayor and up-for-grabs city council seats is Sept 12 where Keenon is the only woman among four Democrats on the ballot for mayor, one of whom will face Green Party candidate and activist Devin Branch in the Nov 7 general election.

All of them are Black.

The other mayoral candidates are former councilman Mansell Baker, Dana Hawkins Jr, a virtual unknown, and current mayor Brandon King, the former councilman who stepped in last December after voters recalled then mayor Gary Norton and then council president Thomas Wheeler,

Cars lined the streets that Saturday afternoon late last month for Keenon's fundraising event, with several neighbors stopping in, both Black and White alike.

Keenon, and her husband, Coy, both free spirits, welcomed their guests with ease, the couple obviously use to entertaining at home.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were state Rep John Barnes Jr., East Cleveland City Council members Nathaniel Martin and Barbara Thomas, East Cleveland Board of Education Members Dr Mary Rice and Eve Westbrooks, who is the vice president of the board of education, East Cleveland Public Library Board of Trustee Member Zakee Ameer Rashif, and former city councilpersons Ike Thompson, Gladys Walcott, Charles Bibb Sr. and Otis Mays, who is also a library board of trustee member.

The Old Guard was in the house, a political force of old heads that know politics in East Cleveland, and elsewhere, and that cannot be taken lightly, particularly on political matters.

A former president and current vice president of the prominent Black Women's PAC that has catapulted Black women of greater Cleveland to elected office for decades, Keenon said that East Cleveland is a suburb with inner city problems, including annoying pot holes, abandoned homes, neglect, and gross poverty.

She outlined a 10-point plan to supporters Saturday that she said she will implement if elected mayor, which includes demolishing abandoned properties and rebuilding neighborhoods, establishing viable partnerships with outside agencies and other entities, bringing in jobs and enhancing community development, strengthening the safety forces, and ridding the city of gang violence.

"As to the age factor," said Keenon, "I don't know if you are ever to old to do what needs to be done."

A wife, mother, and long-time community servant, Kennon promised a transparent administration, and said the city needs a chamber of commerce.

Bishop Beuford Terry, pastor of Greater Cleveland Community Temple COGIC in East Cleveland, opened Saturday's political gathering with a prayer, and Dr Rice, a retired Cleveland schools principal who represents the city of Cleveland Heights on the East Cleveland Board of Education since a segment of its residents are part of the school district, was the mistress of ceremonies.

A host of people spoke on why they support Keenon, including council members Thomas and Martin, both of them saying that she is the best candidate to resurrect and revive the majority Black and debilitating city of some 18,000 people.

Other Black clergy on hand included the Rev Lorenzo Norris, senior pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Cleveland and president of the Cleveland Clergy Alliance, the Bishop Mark L. Perry, senior pastor at Cathedral COGIC in Cleveland, who did the closing prayer, and the Rev. Benjamin Gohlstin of Heritage Baptist Church in Cleveland, who is the husband of attendee Elaine Gohlstin, president of the Black Women's PAC, and President and CEO of the Harvard Community Services Center in Cleveland.

Saturday's fundraiser, the second major campaign hosting event behind a campaign kick-off last month, is all part of an effort to try to make Keenon mayor by unseating Mayor King.

A Norton and Wheeler ally, King has kept much of Norton's administrative staff that worked under the former mayor when he was recalled last year.

Keenon has the female factor in her favor when assessed as one smart woman up against four men who cannot match her credentials and experience either independently or collectively.

"How important is it to give rebirth to this city to a Black woman?" asked Zakee Ameer Rashif, a Kennon supporter and member of the East Cleveland Public Library Board of Trustees.

The winner of the Democratic primary, four of the five candidates, including Keenon and King, of whom are Democrats, will take on Green Party candidate Branch in the Nov 7 general election.

Kennon said that she is the best negotiator among the five candidates, and is respected where it counts.

"Sometimes it's not what you know, it's who you know, and who knows you" said Keenon.

East Cleveland resident Cassandra McDonald said that Keenon is the best person for the job.

Keenon, no doubt, agrees that she fits the bill to be mayor.

"I have proven experience and proven leadership," said Keenon, also a former social worker and former Cleveland schools teacher turned lawyer, and then judge.

Voters will ultimately decide later this year who will lead East Cleveland, Cleveland first suburb that at one time thrived with millionaire's row homes and largely White residents

A potential merger with the neighboring Cleveland, also a largely Black city, looms, and is a hot campaign topic among some voters.

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