Editor’s Note: Tamir Rice case highlights why all elections, even primaries, matter

Over the past year, Cleveland as a community has had to come to terms with the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice by police officer Timothy Loehmann.

Not only has this black child’s death frustrated the city’s populace during a time this country is grappling with race relations and accusations of police violence, but the prosecution, or lack thereof by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, has been a second slap in the face to individuals distraught over the shooting.

McGinty recommended that the grand jury not indict Loehmann. Common criticisms of grand juries include that they often rubber stamp the prosecutor’s recommendation and their secretive nature doesn’t allow for proper accountability. However it should be noted McGinty released an unprecedented amount of information from the investigation.

Unsurprisingly, the grand jury did not indict. Loehmann will not face criminal charges.

The case is so nuanced and complicated that I do not have strong feelings either way on if McGinty should be removed from his position. But something I think that has been lost in this discussion is that McGinty was not appointed to his post, the people of Cleveland put him there in 2012.

He is up for reelection this year, so if you do not like him, vote him out. And do that as early as the Democratic primary. Otherwise, you probably will miss your chance.

Due to Cuyahoga County’s strong Democratic support, winning the general election is often merely a formality after capturing the Democratic primary. McGinty, for example, won close to 80 percent of the two candidate general election vote after capturing the Democratic primary with 35 percent of the vote (the next candidate had around 20 percent with the remaining three hovering around 15 percent each).

Only 41,451 individuals voted for McGinty in the primary. Those 41,451 votes may have changed how the Tamir Rice case was prosecuted. That three percent of the Cuyahoga County population voting four years ago may have decided if a family got justice.

Would another candidate have made a difference in this situation? There is always the chance that a different prosecutor could have reached the same conclusion. But examining the second and third place finishers, I feel that the grand jury indictment may have played out differently.

The second place finisher was Stephanie Hall, a black women who, according to The Plain Dealer, had spent over a decade as a Cleveland police officer. While her previous employment may have complicated matters, she ran on the pledge to prioritize community feedback, fix “broken down” relationships between community members and police, and require cultural sensitivity training for both prosecutors and police.

Another minority candidate finished third as well. Subodh Chandra, who according to The Plain Dealer had served as the law director of Cleveland from 2002 until 2005, where he slashed spending on outside legal counsel by 90 percent, grabbed 20,269 votes. He was a former federal prosecutor who ran with the pledge to de-politicize the office and help address crime through preventive community agencies.

What does Chandra do now? He’s currently representing Tamir Rice’s family in their civil suit against the city. (He also represented Law School professor Raymond Ku when Ku sued Case Western Reserve University in 2014).

Only 21,183 more votes in 2012 and Chandra would have been sitting on the other side of the Rice suit.