CLEVELAND (AP) — A former chairman of the state Communist Party has come closer than ever to taking a city council seat after years of trying for public office.
Registered Democrat Rick Nagin finished a strong second in this month’s primary race in Council Ward 14. He faces a Nov. 3 nonpartisan general election runoff against the top vote-getter, Brian Cummins.
Nagin, 68, failed in three previous bids for a council seat. He resists being labeled a communist, saying Monday the word was demonized by 60 years of Cold War propaganda designed to prepare people for war and intimidate those with liberal ideas.
“It’s an epithet in this country,” he said, “like using the N-word.”
Nagin, who joined the Communist Party in 1970, has written for the People’s Weekly World newspaper, which describes itself as having a “special relationship with the Communist Party USA,” as recently as May.
He said the Communist Party USA has an honorable and distinguished history of working for economic, civil and democratic rights. But he suggested the party needs a new name, perhaps the New Socialist Party.
In the city council campaign, he said the issues are much more local — safety, vacant houses, jobs, programs for young people, block clubs.
“My philosophical outlook is to stand up for working people,” he said. “If elected, I would work not only very hard for my constituents but be a voice for organized labor.”
Cummins, a Democrat and Green Party member, said he will try to show how he’s different from Nagin. He said the topic of Communist Party of Ohio affiliation is appropriate for the campaign.
“It’s a fair issue as it pertains to a candidate’s professional experience,” Cummins said.
He has focused on street, block and civic groups. He supports a mixed-use, urban community and economic development and green-space projects.
In the primary, Cummins and Nagin beat out five candidates, including Ward 14 incumbent Joe Santiago and a former councilman.
Cummins represents a different ward, which is being carved up as part of a council downsizing.
Nagin unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate, Cleveland mayor and Ohio House. He said his early campaigns were a way of breaking down Cold War prejudices.
“At some point, I figured, I was going to have to connect with the people,” he said. “I finally realized that I needed to run from the grass roots.”
He has earned endorsements from union groups, including the local chapter of the AFL-CIO.