Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) announced Tuesday she is no longer considering a run for Speaker of the House, effectively eliminating the only resistance to Nancy Pelosi becoming the next Speaker.
Fudge had previously criticized Pelosi, saying there were not enough black women in leadership positions in Congress, and hinted she might run for the top leadership post in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But Fudge said in a statement Tuesday Pelosi had guaranteed her that black women would be at “the decision-making table” and that that Pelosi had appointed her to chair a new subcommittee on elections, a position from which she will be able to work to uphold the Voting Rights Act, NBC News reported.
It’s unclear if a 2015 letter written by Fudge, which surfaced this week showing her support for a disgraced former Ohio state lawmaker and judge, may have also played a role in her backing off her challenge to Pelosi.
Cleveland media uncovered Tuesday a letter Fudge had written in August 2015 to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office that helped former county judge Lance Mason get what many considered a light sentence relative to his crime.
Mason beat his former wife, Aisha Fraser, so badly that she needed reconstructive facial surgery to correct the damage. Mason pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years, serving nine months before being freed.
In a pre-sentence letter seeking leniency, Fudge said Mason had accepted responsibility for his actions “and assured me something like this will never happen again.”
But it did happen again and now Mason is the focus of an investigation into the killing of Fraser, who was found stabbed to death Saturday in the driveway of her sister-in-law’s home.
The Cuyahoga County medical examiner issued a statement Tuesday revealing that Fraser died from multiple stab wounds in a suspected homicide.
Mason, who remains in a Cleveland-area hospital, has already been charged with felonious assault for injuring an officer after he deliberately crashed into the officer’s car while fleeing the scene.
After he was released from prison the first time, Mason landed a job as the minority business administrator for the city of Cleveland. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson denied that hiring Mason, a fellow Democrat, was a political favor but stood by his policy of hiring convicted felons as city officials.
He said the talk of “backroom deals” was nothing more than “conspiracy” theories from his critics. He said Mason was hired for the $45,000-a-year job because he was the most qualified.
“You know, I did not give him a job. Of course I’m mayor and I sign off on everyone who gets a job, that I do, but he went through a process. This was no political favor. I don’t know him, personally,” Jackson told Cleveland 19 News.
But Fudge found herself in a difficult position Tuesday of being forced to defend her decision to go to bat for an admitted spouse abuser, who later became a suspect in his ex-wife’s killing.
“Lance Mason is a good man who made a very bad mistake,” Fudge wrote in August 2015. “I can only hope that you can see in Lance what I and others see.
“The behavior Lance displayed on August 2, 2014 is out of character and totally contrary to everything I know about him,” she added.
Fudge said the Lance Mason she knew was “a kind, intelligent man and a loyal friend. The Lance T. Mason I know is an advocate for the people of this community.”
One year before the letter was penned by Fudge, Mason had punched Fraser 20 times and smashed her head against a car dashboard with such force that her orbital bone was broken.
The full letter was posted to Twitter by Cleveland 19 reporter Dan DeRoos Tuesday:
We have found a letter of support from @RepMarciaFudge during the 2015 sentencing of Judge Lance Mason after the severe beating of his wife Aisha Fraser. Mason is now the lead suspect in the weekend murder of Fraser. @cleveland19news pic.twitter.com/6Yzgw2gkkD
— Dan DeRoos (@DanDeRoos19) November 19, 2018
In a statement released Tuesday, Fudge tried to distance herself from her old friend, saying he is not the same man she used to know:
My heart breaks for Aisha Fraser. I pray for Aisha’s family, especially her children, as they attempt to deal with this tragedy. My support of Lance in 2015 was based on the person I knew for almost 30 years. The person who committed these crimes is not the Lance Mason familiar to me. They were horrific crimes, and I condemn them. I and everyone who knew Aisha are mourning her loss.”
Fudge was one of more than a dozen people who wrote letters on Mason’s behalf after his guilty plea and leading up to his sentencing. Others included Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Hollie Gallagher and Fraser’s own attorney, Joyce Barrett, Fox 8 in Cleveland reported.
Fraser’s attorney wrote that her client wanted treatment for her husband and that long-term incarceration was “inconsistent with the goals which Ms. Mason desires for her husband, herself, and their children.”
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.