Former State Senator Shirley Smith competes in the Cuyahoga County Executive Race

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Shirley Smith, a former state senator who recently lost a bid for the 11th congressional district, is planning her second campaign for the Cuyahoga County executive branch.

“I haven’t made an official announcement, but I’m running,” Smith told cleveland.com on Friday.

Her first challenge, she said, is to secure the support of the Democratic Party when the executive committee meets later this month. Two other party candidates are also seeking the nod: University Circle Inc. President Chris Ronayne and Warrensville Heights Mayor Bradley Sellers.

Lee Weingart, a former county commissioner, is running unopposed on the Republican card so far.

Smith, 71, is no stranger to the government.

She was first elected to the Ohio House in 1998. She served in the chamber until 2006 and rose to the Senate until 2014, including a stint as Senate Minority Leader. After leaving elected office, she was appointed to the Ohio Parole Board, which she left in 2018.

Smith also ran for the county seat in 2014, losing to county executive Armond Budish in the primary. Most recently, she ran in the crowded special election to succeed US Rep. Marcia Fudge as representative of the 11th congressional district. Shontel Brown, a former Cuyahoga County councilwoman, won the seat.

But losses don’t define them, Smith said. The experience and passion she can bring to the job does.

“I just don’t think I should take all this institutional knowledge and be selfish about it,” she said. “I still want to help people.”

Smith said she decided to run after her friend, Maple Heights Mayor Annette Blackwell, who dropped out of the race shortly after taking part. Smith said they share the same concerns about access to health care, community crime rates, problems in prison and recent property valuations, which she fears are “taxing people out of their homes.”

She carries the torch forward.

“I know there’s still work to be done,” Smith said. “I know we haven’t scratched the surface of what we can do for this county.”

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