Former State Sen. Shirley Smith enters race for Cuyahoga County executive

Former State Sen. Shirley Smith sits at a table, holding a mailer in her hands.
Former State Sen. Shirley Smith, shown here at a debate in 2014, says she is running for Cuyahoga County executive. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Former State Sen. Shirley Smith has joined the Democratic contest for Cuyahoga County executive.

Smith told Ideastream Public Media on Thursday evening that she will seek the county Democratic Party’s endorsement when the party’s executive committee meets later this month.

“I am not tired; I am energetic,” Smith said. “I feel very good, I am well and I have a lot of institutional knowledge. So why should I just sit on it and not share it?”

The former state lawmaker said she is running on her experience in office and particularly on her knowledge of the criminal justice system. A former member of the state parole board, Smith also served as chair of the Ohio Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.

Smith said she could bring that experience to bear on the Cuyahoga County Jail.

“I have been in every one of the prisons,” she said. “I understand the conditions. I understand that we have to work on the welfare of the people that are in the prisons. I have a passion for that.”

Smith said she supported Maple Heights Mayor Annette Blackwell’s short-lived campaign for county executive. Blackwell suspended her campaign last week, just before Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers launched his bid for the job.

“She would have made a great county executive,” Smith said. “Now to say I got in because she got out, I won’t say that. But I will say, had she not gotten out, I wouldn’t be in.”

Smith was one of several Democrats to run for county executive in 2014, falling short in the primary to Armond Budish. She unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year in the special election to fill Marcia Fudge's U.S. House seat.

Former University Circle Incorporated CEO Chris Ronayne, a Democrat, and Republican former county commissioner Lee Weingart are also in the running.

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