Rep. Marcia Fudge (D)
Ohio 11th District
Like most great American cities, Cleveland grew in great bursts of migration, during periods when the economy expanded and attracted low-wage workers from around the country and the world. Cleveland’s greatest surge of growth started in the 1890s and lasted through the 1920s, as tens of thousands of immigrants from central and southern Europe arrived, looking for jobs in the steel, automobile and other factories. Bohemians came to the tightly packed neighborhoods along Broadway, Hungarians settled in the northeast, and Jews north of University Circle along East 105th Street. Italians ran produce markets along Mayfield Road. As the nation’s heavy industries geared up for World War II and enjoyed years of prosperous growth afterward, a second surge of immigrants came, this time blacks from the South. Starting from Cleveland’s old ghetto, south of Carnegie Avenue downtown to East 105th, the rapidly increasing number of African-Americans covered most of the east side by the middle 1960s, when only a few Bohemian and Italian enclaves remained east of the Cuyahoga River. Migration stopped around 1965, but African-Americans continued to move beyond the city limits to the east-side suburbs. These bursts of migration led to political changes. A string of ethnic mayors—Frank Lausche, Anthony Celebrezze, Ralph Locher—was followed by the election in 1967 of Carl Stokes, the nation’s first black big-city mayor. Cleveland had racially polarized politics for much of the 1970s. Even so, the west side stayed mostly white, and Cleveland did not have a black majority until the 2000 census, when its declining population was 51% black. The Census Bureau reported in 2008 that Cleveland was second to Detroit as the poorest of the nation’s big cities, with 45% of all children living in poverty.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 11th Congressional District of Ohio includes most of the east side of Cleveland, plus the suburbs just to the east, which together have about as many people as the city now does. Some of these communities—East Cleveland, Warrensville Heights—are mostly black. Some, notably Shaker Heights, have stable black percentages in carefully maintained neighborhoods where racial integration has succeeded. Near the campus of Case Western Reserve University on the east side, Severance Hall is one of the nation’s grand symphony-orchestra homes. Downtown, Cleveland State University has a large campus. The average age of its roughly 16,000 students is 25 years old. The city’s No. 1 employer is health services, and the Cleveland Clinic, with 1,800 doctors, is internationally renowned, especially for cardiac care. Other suburbs are the destination of African-Americans seeking low-crime neighborhoods and middle-class schools. Still others have attracted Cleveland’s relatively few new immigrants, most of them from Eastern Europe—Russians in Mayfield Heights and Serbs in South Euclid. Overall, 58% of the people in the 11th District are African-American. Politically, this is by far the most Democratic district in Ohio.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st full term.
Born: Oct. 29, 1952, Cleveland .
Home: Warrensville Heights.
Education: OH St. U., B.S. 1975; Cleveland St. U., J.D. 1983.
Elected office: Warrensville Heights mayor, 2000-08.
Professional Career: Practicting atty.; Aide to U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, 1991-2000.
The new congresswoman from the 11th District is Marcia Fudge, who succeeded her former mentor and friend Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, after the five-term Tubbs Jones died on Aug. 20, 2008, from a cerebral aneurysm. Fudge, like many African-Americans of her generation, was greatly influenced by the civil rights movement and got active politically when she was young.
|Marcia Fudge (D)||Unopposed|
|Marcia Fudge (D)||212,667||(85%)||($94,049)|
|Thomas Pekarek (R)||36,708||(15%)|
|Marcia Fudge (D)||10,753||(74%)|
|Jeffrey Johnson (D)||2,028||(14%)|
|Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D)||Unopposed|
She grew up in Cleveland, but her family moved to the suburb of Shaker Heights when she was 12. During high school, Fudge volunteered with “Young Folks for Stokes,” a coalition of young people helping to elect Carl Stokes mayor. She helped with get-out-the-vote efforts and with distributing campaign literature. After graduating from the Ohio State University with a degree in business administration, she received her law degree from Cleveland State University. She practiced mainly criminal defense law in the Cleveland area, along with some probate and corporate work, until she went to work for Tubbs Jones. Fudge and Tubbs Jones first met as members of the national Delta Sigma Theta Sorority alumnae association. Fudge later served as national president of the group of predominately African-American women. When Tubbs Jones became the Cuyahoga County prosecutor in 1991, Fudge served as her administrative assistant. When her boss was elected to Congress in 1998, Fudge came with her to Washington as chief of staff.
After a few years, Fudge felt the pull of elected office herself. When the Warrensville Heights mayor resigned after pleading guilty to improper solicitation, she decided to run. She faced four other candidates in the Democratic primary, including the interim mayor, and came just two votes short of the required 50% to avoid a runoff. On the next ballot, she won, becoming the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of the city. In nine years as mayor, Fudge focused on economic development and claimed credit for creating 3,000 new jobs and bringing in $500 million for development and infrastructure. “I believe people started to feel really good about where they lived, and I think that when people feel good about where they live, that pride transitions into so many things,” Fudge said. She also built relationships with other community leaders and business executives.
Tubbs Jones’ sudden death just a few days before the Democratic National Convention in Denver saddened local and national Democrats, and her funeral in Cleveland drew a huge crowd, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had recently named Tubbs Jones to chair the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. In deciding to seek the nomination, Fudge said she was motivated by a desire to carry on her political mentor’s legacy. “People didn’t really understand what an impact she had on this district, and on the nation, until she was gone,” Fudge said.
Since Tubbs Jones already had won the Democratic primary before her death, members of the district’s Democratic Executive Committee named her replacement on the ballot. Fudge called each member of the committee to explain why she would be the best choice to carry on Tubbs Jones’ legacy. The strategy paid off. There were four candidates, and the committee nominated Fudge with 175 votes. Former state Sen. C. J. Prentiss was a distant second, with 64 votes. In the ten-way special primary on October 14 to fill the remainder of Tubbs Jones’ term, Fudge cruised to victory with 74%. She won the general election 85%-15% and had no Republican challenger for the Nov. 18 special general election, allowing her to be sworn in before other freshmen members that year.
In the House, Fudge got seats on the Education and Labor Committee and on the Science and Technology Committee, where she is vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. She also joined the Congressional Black Caucus. In April 2009, she traveled with other caucus members to Cuba to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro to try to improve U.S.-Cuba relations.