Jane Says...

It’s late April and, just a short walk from the bustling shops and restaurants of Harvard Square, former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell isI talking to a group of about 15 people about faith and politics. She got the gig — as a spring fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics — after losing the election to Mayor Frank Jackson. She seems happy, relaxed, in her element. But maybe she let her guard down too quickly, because she’s about to do something she hasn’t done before and will come to regret: Talk about why she lost the race.

There are maybe a half dozen students at the discussion, some professors and — coincidentally — two members of the media: us and a Plain Dealer reporter, who quoted Campbell as saying for the first time that race was a major factor in her loss. We checked back in with Campbell after the story ran. Despite the fact that her class schedule included a talk on “How the race card was played” in the election, it turns out she never wanted the topic to make its way from Cambridge to Cleveland. Other than that, she says, Harvard was great.         


Her regrets about discussing the loss with the PD reporter: “She was invited to come and report on the Harvard experience. Unfortunately, she had another agenda.”


Bottom line, why she lost the election: “The race is over. Time to move on. Frank Jackson is the mayor and I want him to succeed. I live in Cleveland.”


What she finally had time to do: Get some exercise. Campbell, who didn’t have a car in Cambridge, walked the 15 to 20 minutes to work and back every day — even in the snow.


Her guest lecturers: As part of the program, Campbell invited a series of people to discuss politics with her group. The list included her mother, the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, who talked about faith and politics; George Forbes, who talked about race and politics; and Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, who discussed Ohio politics.


What surprised her most about the experience: “The Harvard community cared very little about the dynamics of the race and the ‘why did you lose’ question and were much more interested in the challenges of governing.”


Her favorite place to hang out at Harvard: The Institute of Politics, where “fascinating people are there every day and the chance for informal interaction and discussion of key issues is unique.”


Her favorite dining hall food: Frozen yogurt

What’s next:Campbell is starting her own consulting business in Cleveland and says she has already signed on a client in India — the Mumbai Transformation project. “They are looking at infrastructure, technology and economic development.”

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