Jeff Johnson's Mayoral Candidacy Challenged

[Matt Richmond / ideastream]

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections is considering whether a felony conviction disqualifies Johnson from running.

In 1998, Johnson was convicted of three counts of extortion in federal court and sentenced to 15 months in prison. The charge was extortion because the federal law used to prosecute him, the Hobbs Act, was created to fight organized crime. It’s also now used to prosecute politicians for taking bribes.

Under Ohio law, anyone convicted of bribery is barred from holding office. Johnson says he had his conviction expunged in 2008, in Cuyahoga County court, and that cleared the way for him to run for city council. Johnson adds that he was convicted of extortion, not bribery.

“This is an attack to try to divert me or sidetrack me. I’m not going to let it happen. I’ll follow whatever procedures the board of elections wants to go through," said Johnson.

Johnson has served on Cleveland City Council since 2009 and won reelection in 2013. He says this is the first challenge to his eligibility for public office. The board of elections has forwarded the complaint to the county prosecutor’s office for its legal opinion on the candidacy challenge. The board of elections says it will hold a hearing on the matter soon.

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