35th Anniversary: The guy next door: Benny Bonanno

The election was still a year away,but the local political pundits predicted Cleveland Clerk of Courts Benny Bonanno would be the city’s next mayor when he appeared in Cleveland Magazine in November 1988 as “The Champion of the West.”

State Sen. Mike White came out of nowhere to beat Bonanno by 1 percent of the vote in the primary election for the right to square off against George Forbes in the 1989 general election.

The 58-year-old former city councilman and state legislator was famous for his door-to-door campaigning. “I did political retail, the old-fashioned way,” says the married father of two children. “I liked talking to Clevelanders about their issues. They were very generous with their votes.”

Bonanno’s political future looked bright after being re-elected to the Clerk’s office in 1993. But two years later, he was forced to resign after pleading guilty to a felony charge of theft in office. He used the city’s computers to aid fellow Democrats’ political campaigns.

The scandal put an end to his political career, so he returned to a previous job at Pubco Corp. As the vice president of marketing and sales, he helps take over bankrupt companies such as Smith-Corona and put them back in business.

Last year his felony record was expunged. “I made a mistake,” he admits. “But I stood up, did my time and went on with my life. All is good."
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