With an upstart candidate bowing out a month before the filing deadline, there are now six Akronites looking to replace the city's 62nd mayor, who said he won't seek a third term this year.
The filing deadline for the municipal primary election in May is Feb. 1. But to collect donations and host fundraisers, campaigns must first be established with paperwork filed at the board of elections.
All eyes will be on Democrats, who've controlled City Hall for decades.
Chapel Hill resident and underdog candidate Joshua Schaffer, 35, has said for a couple years that he's running. Ward 8 Councilman Shammas Malik, the only other current candidate to declare before Horrigan stepped down, announced in September that he's in the hunt.
County Councilman Jeff Wilhite and Deputy Mayor Marco Sommerville declared their intent to run within 24 hours of Horrigan, who's keeping his reasons private, saying in an email on Oct. 4 that he won't run for reelection. Tara Mosley, who's represented Akron's Ward 5 since 2014 and previously said she was waiting until after the 2022 midterms ended, told the Beacon Journal Nov. 29 that she, too, will pursue the top administrative post in the city.
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Businessman Dominique Waters threw his name in the hat and then dropped out Jan. 9 after accepting a position as a store manager at a downtown retailer. The latest to join the race is high school intervention specialist Keith Mills.
Attorney John Sharp, who previously announced his candidacy, died.
As the filing deadline approaches in this wide open race, the Beacon Journal will keep this list updated.
Shammas Malik (running for mayor)
In his first term as the councilman for Ward 8, Malik has proved his political acumen as a strong fundraiser and campaigner.
He handily defeated a well-known challenger in 2019 for the open ward seat covering Northwest Akron. And only Horrigan has more cash on hand heading into 2023.
The Harvard-educated attorney — now in private practice — worked in Horrigan's law department until deciding to run for council. Malik, who shared a mutual endorsement with Horrigan in 2019, was there when the mayor delivered petitions to the board of elections for a successful 2018 ballot initiative that moved the city's primary from September to May.
But Malik, 31, has not supported Horrigan 100% of the time.
During the pandemic, the young councilman debated the mayor's opposition to a moratorium on water utility shutoffs. In 2021 after the city began receiving $145 million in federal pandemic relief funds, Malik joined a minority on council who opposed what they viewed as blanket spending authorization for the mayor. Now he's the most outspoken advocate on council for a voter-approved charter change that would create a civilian police review board. The mayor is fighting for the board's creation through a less permanent legislative process.
Keith Mills (running for mayor)
Mills, 41, first ran for public office at 29 years old, vying for a ward council seat in 2009 while living in North Hill. He and his wife, whom he married the next year, have since moved to West Akron to raise their three children.
Mills is a head coach in the esports program at Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where he works as an intervention specialist at Collinwood High School. He moved to Akron from Barberton when he was 8 years old.
"Just growing up in Akron," Mills said of his desire for change at City Hall, "it's always the same guys, same mentality in office."
He said people are tired of the lack of civic engagement and fed up with incremental improvements that haven't added up to anything that feels like real change.
If elected, Mills said, he'd explore ways to lower sewer bills, especially for people who can't afford them on fixed incomes. His campaign, he said, will also focus on addressing dilapidated houses, better customer service and possibly running internet in Akron as a public utility.
Tara Mosley (running for mayor)
It's been Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Mosley's lifelong dream to serve in the highest office of her city.
“That's always been my objective my entire life, is to be the mayor of Akron,” Mosley said in October.
"I'm sure most of the council would be interested — those who actually want to see significant change in the city," said Mosley, who expressed a desire to wait for Horrigan to make his decision before postponing her decision until after the national midterm elections.
Mosley, a former bailiff in the Akron Municipal Court, has served one of the city's most diverse and lowest income areas for eight years on council. The East Akron resident has made and tested alliances in her two terms as an elected official, at times challenging Mayor Horrigan's policy proposals while still securing his endorsement for re-election in 2019.
In 2018, Mosley ran for lieutenant governor with Dennis Kucinich, who lost the Democratic nomination to Rich Cordray. A spot on the populist ticket earned Mosley more respect from progressive liberals who already appreciated her vocal support for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former state Sen. Nina Turner.
Joshua Schaffer (running for mayor)
Joshua Schaffer is a cellphone store manager who’s been blocked from campaigning on public buses, University of Akron buildings and the mayor of Akron’s official Facebook page.
“Well, when you're an average Joe working a full-time job, you got two days off a week,” explained Schaffer. “And, hopefully, there's an event one of those days.”
Schaffer tried passing out campaign literature in the winter but was told by legal counsel at UA that electioneering is not permitted indoors. This spring, he was told campaigning would not be permitted on Metro RTA buses.
Schaffer’s comments on the mayor’s Facebook page disappeared this year. He was told the forum was no place for supporting or opposing political candidates. Schaffer got his attorney involved and made the case that the official social media accounts of public officeholders are tantamount to public space, where the First Amendment protects free speech.
Marco Sommerville (running for mayor)
An embalmer and longtime owner of Sommerville Funeral Services, Marco Sommerville had the credentials to run for mayor eight years ago. In addition to his bonafides as a businessman, he had previously presided over City Council and the Akron NAACP.
Sommerville cut his political teeth on Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign. His name came up in 2015 as the city scrambled for a leader after the abrupt resignation of Don Plusquellic, who had appointed Sommerville planning director in 2012.
Sommerville's campaign issued a late-evening press release on Tuesday, hours after Horrigan finally dropped his plans no to run again. Sommerville said it's been an honor to serve Horrigan and the city where he has run his business and raised his family.
"My commitment to this city, the continued growth of our economy, and the well-being of everyone who calls this great city home is unwavering," Sommerville said in the release. "It is for these reasons that I announce my candidacy for the 63rd Mayor of Akron.
Horrigan endorsed Sommerville on Oct. 6.
Jeff Wilhite (running for mayor)
A former board member at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and founding executive director of the Summit/Akron Solid Waste Management Authority, Wilhite brings three decades of service in public office or private nonprofits focused on the environment, education, housing and business.
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"I've spent my entire professional career being involved in this community, seeing things come and go, seeing things that worked and things that didn't work," said Wilhite, a former vice president and former president of County Council who served Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic as deputy mayor for administration and deputy planning director from 2000 to 2006. "It’s time to give back. And I feel passionate about that. I want to make sure the city stays on a positive trajectory."
Wilhite said he'd run for mayor now that Horrigan isn't. Before his appointment to County Council in 2016, where he's since been elected to stay, he ran for an at-large seat on Akron City Council in 2015. He's currently the executive director at Family Promise of Summit County, a provider of housing and homeless services.
Wilhite said he would focused on, among other things, boosting homeownership and supporting businesses still recovering from the pandemic and its lingering effects.
"There’s just a whole lot of good that goes on in the community and we’ve got the resources, and can attract other resources," he said.
John Sharp (deceased)
Retired Akron attorney John Sharp, 80, who recently announced he would be running for mayor, has died.
The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office said Sharp was pronounced dead Dec. 9 at his apartment at Henry A. Callis Tower. An official cause and manner of death is pending an examination.
Sharp worked for the Equal Employment Opportunity Office in Washington, D.C., the late Harold Stubbs on Akron City Council, the Akron Urban League and attorney Ed Parms, a pillar in Akron's civil rights movement.
He was a former chairman of The Coalition for a Safe Community of Akron.
In late November, Sharp took his three allotted minutes at the microphone in Akron Council's public comment period to announce his campaign for mayor.
"I don’t expect to win. But I want to bring up some issues clearly and crisply," Sharp told the Beacon Journal, explaining that as a political "independent" he plans to push Democrats in the primary to help Black-owned small business, bring poor white and Black people together and denounce police brutality, adding that "police have a lot of blood on their hands."
"And I will support Marco and Tara to the extent that they share these issues," Sharp said.
Dominique K. Waters (not running for mayor)
Dominique K. Waters filed paperwork to run for mayor on Dec. 6. A native of the Rubber City, he moved back to Akron in 2020 after attending Central State University in 2007 and working in luxury consulting in New York City for seven years.
Waters had said he would announce his decision to run (or not run) after the 2022 midterms. He did. And then a month later, he dropped out, saying he had taken a position as the store manager of the new UNKNWN retail store in downtown Akron. He said he's focused on working with Downtown Akron Partnership, where he's joined the board, and within the retail space to impact culture in the city.
Mike Williams (not running)
Mike Williams is a Democrat and former at-large council member who challenged Horrigan in 2015. Some of his supporters are still bitter over Akron's business community pouring its political power into a political action committee that backed Horrigan and helped bump Williams out of the primary.
Williams said he heard the rumor about Horrigan not running again a year before the mayor confirmed it.
Initially taking the "never say never" position on whether he would run, Williams said he'll support Mosley.
“It’s the next generation’s time for leadership," said Williams, 65. "And I’m very proud and happy to support Tara for mayor. She’s prepared and she has the right vision and philosophy for the city."
Williams now teaches University of Akron courses on contemporary global issues and diversity in America.
Rev. Greg Harrison (considering run as an independent)
The Rev. Greg Harrison is considering running as an independent. The deadline for independents to file is the day before the primary election in May.
A retired Akron police officer and pastor at Antioch Baptist Church, Harrison has formed a committee to consider running in the general election as a politically unaffiliated candidate after challenging Horrigan in the 2019 Democratic primary, losing with 21.5% of the vote.
Before retiring, Harrison led the now defunct association of Black law enforcement officers in Summit County. He's since supported families who've lost loved ones in police encounters. He now works as a regional liaison for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Eric Garrett (not running for mayor)
Eric Garrett, 51, a community organizer and owner of Beyond Expectations Barber College, has changed his mind. After talking to Mayor Horrigan about the best way to serve the city, Garrett said he's decided to run for an at-large council seat.
Garrett ran for City Council in Ward 10 in 2015 after the council voted largely along racial lines to reject his funding request to support the barber college, which primarily serves the Black community. He finished third in a three-way race that year and did not appear on the ballot in 2019.
Sage Lewis (not running for mayor)
Sage Lewis has been trading lawsuits with the mayor and fighting the city's enforcement since Akron zoning officials forbade him from sheltering homeless people in tents on his private property in 2018.
Lewis, an auctioneer and political activist, connected with the struggles of Akron's entrenched homeless population when collecting their signatures on the street in 2015 as a candidate for mayor. Too many of the signers, who lived on in the woods, homeless shelters or other places, lacked official addresses, so their signatures were invalidated.
This time around, Lewis said he'll bow out of the mayor's race if Malik, his councilman in Ward 8, decides to run. With Malik announcing his mayoral bid last month, Lewis said he will now run for for Malik's seat on council.
No Republican candidates for Akron mayor
Melissa Wilkinson, the executive director of the Summit County Republican Party, said a committee has been formed to identify potential candidates for the municipal elections in Akron.
The local party has no candidate, at least this early, who has formally expressed interest in running for mayor. And the last two candidates who won the party’s local nomination are out of the question.
And criminal defense attorney Eddie Sipplen, who left the party when it nominated Donald Trump, said he is “not interested whatsoever” in running again.
“After I ran in 2015, that was it,” Sipplen said. “I am done with politics. I’ve been done with the Republican Party since 2016. I have zero interest in politics.”
Reach reporter Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 330-996-3792.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Mayor of Akron: Mosley, Malik, Marco Sommerville announce bids