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House Republican who voted to impeach Trump won’t run again

By JILL COLVIN and JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press
One of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol announced he will not seek reelection in Ohio next year.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a former NFL player with a once-bright political future, cited his two young children for his decision and noted “the chaotic political environment that currently infects our country.” He is the first Latino to represent Ohio in Congress.
“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decisions,” Gonzalez said in his statement Thursday night.
Gonzalez, 36, would have faced Max Miller in the 2022 primary. Trump has endorsed Miller, his former White House and campaign aide, as part of his bid to punish those who voted for his impeachment or blocked his efforts to overturn the results of the election. Trump rallied for Miller this summer.
In a statement, Miller’s campaign called Gonzalez’s announcement “good news for the voters of our district,” said Gonzalez had “dishonored the office by betraying his constituents” with his impeachment vote.
Gonzalez represents northeast Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, in the northeastern part of the state.
The Ohio Republican Party censured Gonzalez in May for voting in February to impeach Trump. Gonzalez has stood by his impeachment vote in the face of fierce pushback from his party’s conservative wing.
It remains unclear whether any of the other House Republicans who joined Gonzalez in voting for impeachment will follow in his footsteps.
In an interview with The New York Times announcing his decision, Gonzalez called Trump “a cancer for the country” who represents a threat to democracy and said that Jan. 6 had been “a line-in-the-sand moment” for him.
While he said there seemed to have been a moment then when the party might break with the former president, he has been dismayed by its decision to instead embrace Trump.
“This is the direction that we’re going to go in for the next two years and potentially four, and it’s going to make Trump the center of fund-raising efforts and political outreach,” Gonzalez told the newspaper. “That’s not something I’m going to be part of.”
He said he plans to spend his time now working to prevent Trump from being elected to the White House again.
“Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal,” he said.
Trump called Gonzalez’s decision not to seek reelection “no loss for Ohio or our Country.” In a statement Friday that also praised Miller, the former president said Gonzalez quit after losing popularity following his vote for impeachment.

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Ohio to receive 855 Afghan refugees through federal program

By The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly 900 Afghan refugees will be arriving in Ohio and placed within eight local resettlement agencies as part of the first group of nearly 37,000 arrivals across the country, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.
“These are individuals who have been partners with United States and deserve our support in return for the support they’ve given us,” DeWine said in a statement.
The evacuees will be arriving through the U.S. Department of State’s Afghan Placement and Assistance Program to agencies mainly in northeast and central Ohio.
The Biden administration had begun notifying governors and state refugee coordinators of their arrivals on Wednesday. Officials said the State Department resettled evacuees based on the advice of local affiliates of nine national resettlement agencies the U.S. government is working with.
Through the process, Afghan evacuees are advised by officials that certain parts of the country — including areas with plentiful job openings and cheaper housing — could be good places to begin their new lives in the U.S.
The Afghan evacuees go through a Department of Homeland Security-coordinated process of security vetting and health screening before being admitted.
The Biden administration has requested funding from Congress to help resettle 65,000 Afghans in the U.S. by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022.

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Psychologist facing child porn counts reaches plea deal

BEAVERCREEK, Ohio (AP) — A child psychologist facing dozens of counts related to child pornography pleaded guilty to child endangerment and tampering with evidence in exchange for all other counts being dismissed.
Gregory Ramey, 71, entered his pleas Wednesday in Greene County Common Pleas Court. His sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 18, but it’s not clear if he’s facing a potential prison term.
Ramey’s attorney has said the images his client had were provocative but not pornographic, and the individuals shown were clothed.
Ramey was fired by Dayton Children’s Hospital in August 2019 after officials learned he was under investigation by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Ramey served as executive director for pediatric mental health resources at Dayton Children’s and wrote a weekly parenting column distributed by The New York Times.
Ramey pleaded guilty to six counts of child endangerment and one count of tampering with evidence. The other counts he faced — including illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, pandering obscenity involving a minor and attempted pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor — were all dismissed.

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Activists demand tougher federal review of Columbus police

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and FARNOUSH AMIRI Associated Press/Report for America
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The announcement that the U.S. Justice Department will provide technical assistance to Columbus police — at the city’s invitation — has done little to curb community activists’ allegations that officials aren’t doing enough to change the department following a series of fatal police shootings of Black people.
The activists, including several faith leaders, are dismissive of the review announced by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, saying it won’t lead to the changes needed within the division, which was also criticized for its handling of last year’s racial injustice protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On Thursday, the activists asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation through its Civil Rights Division, a probe sometimes called a “pattern-or-practice” investigation that can lead to court-ordered oversight of a troubled police department.
“We watched Mayor Ginther attempt to calm the community by calling on the Department of Justice to review current practices within the division,” Adrienne Hood, the mother of 23-year-old Henry Green, who was killed by Columbus police officers in 2016, said on video Thursday.
Hood added, “As people of faith, we demand more than a review. We need a reckoning that will transform law enforcement into a public safety department which cares for, serves and protects all of its citizens.”
The mother-turned-activist read the letter to the Justice Department on video, pleading for the department to investigate the internal police practices she said killed her son.
Ginther, a Democrat, said he agrees with the group’s position and said as much when he asked the Justice Department to intervene in April. But ultimately it was the Justice Department’s call, he said.
“That’s what we asked for, but we don’t tell the attorney general what to do and how to handle things,” Ginther said. “He doesn’t need our invitation or request.”
A COPS Office review or a pattern-or-practice investigation “could help us do even more with respect to reform, oversight, accountability and transparency,” Ginther told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division considers a number of factors when deciding whether to open a pattern-or-practice investigation, including the status of local police reform efforts, the agency said Thursday in a statement to the AP.
The department also consults with staff in the COPS Office and other Justice programs, “to consider whether a pattern-or-practice investigation and enforcement action is the best approach or whether other forms of intervention would be more appropriate to address the concerns of the community,” the agency said.
An AP review of city correspondence indicates city leaders were directed to the COPS Office in April when they asked the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland to step in. The April 21 request came one day after a white Columbus officer fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was Black, as she swung a knife at a woman.
“I would like to possibly schedule a call with AG Garland, you and his team about the possibility of inviting the Justice Dept to Columbus to help us reform the Columbus Division of Police,” Zach Klein, the Columbus City Attorney, said in an email to Garland’s chief of staff, Matthew Klapper.
“We want Columbus to be the model of how things can be done when we all work together,” Klein wrote in the email obtained by the AP through a records request.
Klapper responded the same day by introducing Klein to Robert Chapman, acting director of the COPS Office.
Klein responded by welcoming the introduction. “The positive possibilities are endless, and I’m confident a partnership between Columbus and DOJ could serve as a national model to improve policing for communities and police,” Klein wrote.
Six days later, Columbus formally requested a review from Chapman “of Columbus police operations, identifying any and all racial biases in policing efforts.”
In that April 27 letter, Klein and Ginther spoke of a desire to “willingly and voluntarily engage” with the Justice Department. But they also said they were open to a tougher approach involving “court-ordered enforcement mechanisms.”
“If we exhaust all remedies available to us as partners, and litigation becomes necessary, we will fully support these efforts because we share the ultimate goal of reforming policing practices in the City of Columbus,” the two leaders said.
But advocates and civil rights attorneys believe the city could have done more to ensure lasting changes would take place as a result of the Justice Department coming in.
Ginther and city leaders still had the opportunity to turn down the Justice review offer and asked for an investigation where there is an enforcement mechanism through court-ordered mandates, said Sean Walton, an attorney who has represented the families of several Black people fatally shot by Columbus police.
Walton also criticized the city’s use of the word “partnership” to describe the effort between them and Justice.
“I’m more skeptical of a process where we do not have any accountability,” Walton said Thursday. “And when the final decisionmakers or the final authorities in terms of enforcing the reforms that are needed is the mayor and the public safety director of Columbus.”
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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Ex-student pleads guilty in Ohio fraternity hazing case

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) — One of the eight men charged in the fraternity hazing death of a Bowling Green State University sophomore pleaded guilty on Thursday in Ohio.
Niall Sweeney, 21, of Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in a Wood County courtroom to felony tampering with evidence and misdemeanor hazing in the March death of 20-year-old Stone Foltz, a sophomore from Delaware, Ohio.
A felony involuntary manslaughter charge and two other misdemeanor charges were dismissed. Sweeney was the first defendant in the case to enter a guilty plea.
A message seeking comment was left with Sweeney’s attorney.
Attorneys for Foltz’s parents issued a statement that said Sweeney’s plea “sends a strong message that any act of hazing will not be tolerated in this great state.”
Foltz, who was trying to join Pi Kappa Alpha, was found unconscious by a roommate after the hazing ritual and died three days later. He drank an entire bottle of bourbon and could not walk on his own afterward, according to findings from a law firm hired by the university to investigate the death.

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Nonprofit exec, council president to vie for Cleveland mayor

CLEVELAND (AP) — A nonprofit executive and the City Council president will face off in November to determine who will succeed Cleveland’s longtime mayor.
According to unofficial results, Justin Bibb received 27% of the vote and Council President Kevin Kelley 19% on Tuesday in a nonpartisan primary field that featured seven Democratic candidates.
Dennis Kucinich, who was elected as the country’s youngest big-city mayor in 1977 and subsequently served eight terms in Congress, finished third, receiving nearly 17% of the vote. Kucinich conceded on Tuesday night.
Frank Jackson, the longest serving mayor in city history, is stepping down in January after choosing not to seek a fifth four-year term in office.
Bibb, 34, is the chief strategy officer for Urbanova, a public-private partnership that focuses on mid-sized cities. Kelley, 53, was first elected to City Council in 2005 and became council president in 2013. Both are attorneys.

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Records: Ohio prison guards disciplined before inmate death

By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Three of the Ohio prison guards involved in the February death of inmate Michael McDaniel were previously disciplined for excessive use of force or not intervening when inmates were in danger or guards used unjustified force, records show.
The disciplinary documents, obtained by The Associated Press, show a number of past incidents where Lt. Bruce Brown and correctional officers Adam Causey and Jerry Perkins were reprimanded for actions similar to those made in connection with McDaniel’s in-custody death.
The three men were among the seven employees at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient who were fired last month after a state investigation into the death of the Black inmate found guards used unjustified force and a supervisor failed to intervene.
The Franklin County Coroner’s office had declared McDaniel’s death a homicide and ruled the cause as a “stress-induced sudden cardiac death.” The autopsy detailed injuries to his head, face, shoulders, wrists, hands, knees, feet, toes and abdomen. McDaniel also had multiple rib fractures, and the coroner found evidence of heart disease.
Security footage released by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in July showed McDaniel, 55, collapsing on his own and being taken down to the floor by guards at least 16 times before he died Feb. 6.
Previous disciplinary records show Perkins was suspended in November 2017 after using excessive force on an inmate. He is also cited as failing to follow orders, administrative regulations and written or verbal directives from other staff during the incident.
In October 2020, Causey was demoted from his position as a lieutenant for failing to take action when informed by an officer that an inmate was threatening to kill himself. The disciplinary record states Causey did not follow the necessary protocols in accordance with the department’s suicide prevention policy by not advising officers in the housing unit to supervise the inmate or notifying the shift commander of the suicide risk.
In a statement, the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing correctional officers, said it could not comment on previous disciplinary actions or the investigation surrounding McDaniel’s death as it is ongoing.
“It’s certainly a tragedy anytime someone dies, but everyone involved in this incident is entitled to their due process rights,” union President Chris Mabe said. “We shouldn’t get ahead of the facts.”
On the day of McDaniel’s death, Brown was the first supervisor on the scene. He oversaw Perkins, Causey and the other staff who interacted with the inmate.
“It was his responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved,” the report stated. But investigators determined Brown did not properly supervise or intervene during the various missteps guards and prison staff took throughout the incident, including allowing McDaniel to be escorted across the yard on a 28-degree day with no shoes or a coat, and in a ripped t-shirt.
When questioned by investigators about changing the method of the escort, Brown said he did not think about it at the time. “It was definitely on me as the scene supervisor,” to do so, he added.
A similar incident involving Brown took place when he was a site supervisor in October 2017 and a use of force incident took place between a prison guard and an inmate. The records state Brown did not properly communicate to staff and failed to recognize the inmate was “not coherent and could not understand the commands being given to him.”
He was also reprimanded for failing to ensure the inmate received proper medical evaluation and assessment after he was pepper-sprayed by staff. The report also states guards left the inmate’s cell without decontaminating it and removing “the feces from his body” and the walls of his cell.
An administrative grievance process as part of the union membership is underway for Causey and Perkins.
On Wednesday, Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford told The Columbus Dispatch she would not be bringing criminal charges against the staff involved.
“I have declined to take the case as I am unable to prove intent on the part of any of the (corrections officers) and/or nurses,” Wolford said in an email to the newspaper.
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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Ohio redistricting panel OKs 4-year plan along party lines

By JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The powerful new redistricting panel in Ohio failed on Wednesday to reach the bipartisan consensus necessary to pass a 10-year map of state legislative districts based on 2020 census totals.
After hours of negotiations ahead of a midnight deadline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new district boundaries purely along party lines. That means the map will last for only four years.
The two Democrats on the panel — state Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes, his daughter — maligned the GOP-drawn map as an unfair and arrogant thwarting of Ohio voters’ wishes.
“I call it offensive and plain wrong to move forward this map after we heard hundreds of people come before us, hours of testimony in cities across this great state, and to put forth something that so arrogantly flies in the face of what people, our voters, asked to do,” Rep. Sykes said.
Ohio is using a new redistricting process for the first time this year that was approved by voters through state ballot issues in 2015 and 2018.
The new system, which is meant to fight partisan gerrymandering, required the independent commission — which includes two Republicans and two Democrats from the Legislature, as well as three statewide officals — to finish redrawing legislative districts by Wednesday. It sets an initial Sept. 30 deadline for the General Assembly to complete a new map of the state’s congressional districts.
An Associated Press analysis found that Ohio’s maps are among the nation’s most gerrymandered, during a period when Republicans won more seats than would have been expected based on the percentage of votes they received.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose voted for the final map, but he expressed deep disappointment that bipartisan compromise yielding a 10-year map couldn’t be achieved.
“We’ve fallen short,” he said. “Not enough members of this commission wanted to come along with that effort.” He accused unnamed fellow Republicans on the panel of not working in good faith to reach a compromise that could satisfy both parties.
GOP Auditor Keith Faber said he, LaRose and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine spent hours trying to find a map that would draw a unanimous vote. He voted “yes with some apprehension.”
DeWine, likewise, said he was “very, very sorry” at where things landed, yet supported the final boundaries. He suggested both sides — not just majority Republicans — were to blame.
“It’s clear in talking to both sides that there’s not going to be an agreement, and that we could go tomorrow and the next day and the next day and it simply is not going to occur,” he said
Legal challenges are anticipated.
“Fair Districts Ohio is still reviewing the Ohio House and Senate maps and considering next steps, including possible litigation and ballot initiatives in the future,” the coalition said in a statement.
Republican Senate President Matt Huffman said the final map will have 62 of 99 Ohio House seats that favor Republicans and 23 of 33 Ohio Senate seats that favor the GOP — down from some earlier maps.
“It takes us much closer to the Democratic plan that was presented,” he said.
The vote followed eight crowded public hearings around the state, where members were pilloried by critics who said the state’s existing legislative and congressional districts aren’t representative. A few witnesses defended the current Republican advantage as fair, given GOP is the state’s dominant party, but they were in a distinct minority.
Ohio’s partisan breakdown is roughly 54% Republicans, 46% Democrats.
The separate process for redrawing congressional districts is running concurrently to the legislative map-making process. Ohio lost one congressional seat due to lagging population growth recorded in the 2020 Census, which will give the state 15 rather than 16 seats for the next 10 years.
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This story has been updated to correct that the panel has not yet approved Ohio’s redistricting map. The Associated Press erroneously published the wrong version of the story.

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School vaccine campaigns targeting students face blowback

By CEDAR ATTANASIO Associated Press / Report for America
Fearing his parents wouldn’t approve of his decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine but needing their signature, Andrew signed up for the appointment in secret, and then sprang it on them at the last minute.
They said no. Andrew cursed at his mother and father and called them idiots. Andrew’s dad grabbed him by the shirt collar.
“He said, ‘You’re not getting this damn vaccine; you need to lower your voice. Watch your tone when you talk to me.’ It was, it was the first time my dad had ever done something like that — he grabbed my shirt and yelled in my face,” said Andrew, a 17-year-old student in Hoover, Alabama.
In most states, minors need the consent of their parents in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Navigating family politics in cases of differing views has been a challenge for students and organizers of outreach campaigns, who have faced blowback for directly targeting young people.
President Joe Biden has encouraged every school district to promote vaccines, including with on-site clinics, to protect students as they return to school amid a resurgence of the coronavirus. But several governments and school districts have taken more neutral stances in areas where skepticism of the vaccine remains prevalent.
In Tennessee, the health department ended vaccination events and outreach aimed at minors following criticism of advertisements that featured children and included slogans like “Give COVID-19 vaccines a shot.” Republican lawmakers accused the health department of ” peer pressuring ” children to get the vaccine and criticized a top official who sent a memo to vaccine providers explaining that they could legally waive parental consent under Tennessee law.
Nationwide, half of people ages 12-17 have been vaccinated. That age group has been eligible for the Pfizer vaccine since May on an emergency use authorization. Trials are underway for younger children.
Full approval for the drug was granted by federal safety regulators recently for people 16 and older. Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District school board voted to mandate vaccines for students 12 and older.
In Molalla, Oregon, the mayor pressured a high school to cancel a vaccine drive on campus this semester, citing a $50 gift card incentive he equated with bribery. Many who called for an end to the vaccine drive expressed opposition to the vaccines, although Mayor Scott Keyser said he’s not against them.
Misinformation surrounding in-school vaccination efforts has also eroded trust between parents and school districts across the country.
School officials in Kettering, Ohio, received death threats in August after TikTok videos baselessly claimed the suburban Dayton district was vaccinating children without parental consent.
There was no truth to the claims — they came out before the school year began, and spring vaccine clinics required parents to be present — but they caused “huge hysteria” in the community nonetheless, according to Kettering City Schools superintendent Scott Inskeep.
“Our families really are struggling with both information and disinformation,” Inskeep said. “It’s like a match being put to a gasoline fire. When it starts it’s hard to put out.”
In a total of eight states, all in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest, providers can waive parental consent requirements — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama, according to a May review by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In some areas, there have been efforts to make it easier for kids to get vaccinated.
State legislators in New York and New Jersey introduced laws that would allow teens to consent to vaccines without parental consent, but they were never passed. D.C. passed its law and is being sued by an anti-vaccine group. In New Mexico, health officials remade consent forms so that parents could sign them and send them with their kids, instead of having to show up in person.
Elsewhere, some officials have tried to give parents more say over vaccinations for teenagers.
In May, officials in two Oregon counties barred health officials from giving vaccines to kids without parental consent. Yamhill County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer and the mother of three teenagers defended the move saying, “Our children are not the property of the State of Oregon.”
But the counties backed down after state health officials issued a legal opinion affirming consent rights for children 15 and older. Berschauer continues to advocate against vaccine incentives for teens, calling the programs “peer pressure.”
On paper, Alabama’s law is one of the more liberal, allowing minors like Andrew to get the vaccine on their own. In practice, that’s nearly impossible. The Alabama Department of Public Health requires parental consent as a matter of policy, and so do major pharmacies.
The day after the argument with his parents, Andrew’s father took him to the pharmacy and signed, without saying a word. Andrew’s father confirmed his son’s account but declined to be interviewed. Andrew asked that his last name not be used out of fear of further upsetting his parents.
Pediatricians in some cases try to facilitate conversations between children and parents and promote the COVID-19 vaccine. But it doesn’t always work, even with parents who have accepted their pediatrician’s recommendation on other vaccines, including for HPV and the flu.
“They look at me like I’m suggesting that they feed their child poison when I’m recommending a COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Katrina Skinner, president of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Andrew’s Hoover High School does not promote COVID-19 vaccinations on its website or social media channels, and there’s no indication the school will host a vaccine clinic. School officials did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.
Alabama state health officials have been encouraging the vaccines among young people with a contest on the social media app TikTok that awarded $250 for the best video promoting COVID-19 vaccinations.
One of Andrew’s schoolmates, Rotimi Kukoyi, 17, was one of four contest winners. He shared the video with his 18,000 followers, built over two years by making jokes.
“I showed the CDC explaining how the vaccine is safe, and how it’s effective, and then I linked resources for people to sign up to get the vaccine,” Rotimi said.
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Attanasio reported from Santa Fe, N.M. Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.
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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.
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This story was first published on September 13, 2021. It was updated on September 14, 2021, to correct a quote from Dr. Katrina Skinner, the president of the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Skinner said, “They look at me like I’m suggesting that they feed their child poison when I’m recommending a COVID vaccine,” not “They look at me like I’m suggesting that they feed their childhood poison when I’m recommending a COVID vaccine.”

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Cleveland mayoral primary to narrow field to 2 candidates

CLEVELAND (AP) — Voters in Cleveland headed to the polls on Tuesday to narrow a field of seven candidates to two in a race to succeed longtime Democratic Mayor Frank Jackson.
The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary will face off in the Nov. 4 general election. All seven candidates are Democrats.
They include City Council President Kevin Kelley, former Mayor Dennis Kucinich, City Councilman Basheer Jones, State Sen. Sandra Williams, former Councilman Zack Reed, nonprofit executive Justin Bibb and attorney Ross DiBello.
Jackson, 74, is winding down an unprecedented fourth four-year term. He was first elected mayor in 2005.
Kucinich, 74, drew attention as the youngest big-city mayor in the U.S. after his election in 1977. He survived a recall attempt after refusing to sell Cleveland’s municipal power plant, a move that plunged the city into default.
Future Ohio governor and U.S. Senator George Voinovich defeated Kucinich in the 1979 mayor’s race.
Kucinich was elected to the first of his eight congressional terms in 1996. He was defeated in the 2012 Democratic primary by Rep. Marcy Kaptur after Ohio’s congressional districts were redrawn.