For more background on this race, read The 19th’s prior coverage here.
Ohio voters in the Cleveland and Akron areas on Tuesday picked Shontel Brown over Nina Turner in a closely watched U.S. House primary that became a gauge for Democratic anxieties about maintaining congressional control after the 2022 midterm elections.
Brown, 46, is a county councilwoman and the first Black person and first woman to chair the Cuyahoga Democratic Party. She came from behind to defeat one-time front-runner Turner, 53, a former Cleveland councilwoman and state senator who is a national star in the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
The two Black women represent two directions Democrats could take ahead of the 2022 midterms. Their primary in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, which has been represented by a Black woman since 1999, previewed that choice: Are Democrats more likely to hold onto congressional control by nominating liberal activists in the mold of ‘The Squad’ or lawmakers who favor President Joe Biden’s institutionalist and bipartisan approach?
For months, Brown trailed Turner, who came into the race with a national profile and the formidable fundraising prowess to match. While Turner had the backing of Sanders and other progressive stars such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Brown had the support of Hillary Clinton, who defeated Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary, and Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black lawmaker in the House.
Brown was also endorsed by the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the mother of Marcia Fudge, a former CBC chair who represented the district from 2008 until joining Biden’s administration as housing secretary earlier this year.
“Marcia now serves in President Biden’s cabinet so she can’t endorse in a race for Congress — but I can. Shontel Brown is Marcia’s protégé. She shares Marcia’s values and will continue her legacy,” Marian Garth Saffold said in an advertisement for Brown’s campaign.
National attention on the race only intensified in its final stretch as surrogates flocked to Ohio to back the women leading the pack and additional outside spending poured into the race. It is a safe Democratic district and Brown is now strongly favored to win the special election in November. Fudge carried the district in November 2020 with more than 80 percent of the vote.