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Akron voters will elect a new mayor in 2023. Who's running?

Akron Skyline
City of Akron
The 63rd mayor of Akron will be elected in 2023.

Akron residents will choose a new mayor this year.

Seven people have already announced their candidacies – six men and one woman. They're a mix of longtime Akron politicians and political newcomers.

On the Democrat ticket, Marco Sommerville, current Deputy Mayor of Intergovernmental Affairs under Mayor Dan Horrigan, and Jeff Wilhite, a Summit County Councilman and former Deputy Mayor for Administration, have both filed to run.

Two current city councilmembers – Shammas Malik and Tara Mosley – also launched campaigns.

Joshua Schaffer, a Chapel Hill resident and Keith Mills, a teacher and coach, are also running. Dominique Waters, a local businessman, initially declared a candidacy but dropped out of the race Jan. 9 to pursue a new retail opportunity in the city.

Jim Isabella, a former conservative talk show host at WNIR, is the sole Republican candidate thus far. Editor's note: Jim Isabella was hired in July 2022 as a part-time announcer operator for WKSU. He will not be on the air while he is a candidate for mayor.

Retired attorney John Sharp, who had also announced a campaign, died Dec. 6, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Mayor will likely be decided in May

All eyes are on the Democratic primary in May because of Akron’s decades-long history as a Democratic stronghold. Akron voters haven't elected a Republican in more than 40 years.

The filing deadline is in February.

Malik was the first city official to join the race, formally announcing his campaign for mayor in September. Others stepped into the race after Mayor Dan Horrigan announced in October he would not seek a third term.

Sommerville launched his campaign just hours after Horrigan’s announcement. Two days later, Horrigan endorsed Sommerville.

There was speculation for some time that Horrigan would not seek a third term. His second term was plagued with challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker and subsequent protests.

Recently, the mayor sparred with residents and some city councilmembers over a controversial housing and retail development called White Pond Reserve, which will be built on an area that includes wetlands on the city’s west side. Horrigan advocated for the development to try to help meet the city’s housing demands, despite environmental and traffic concerns from dozens of residents.

During Horrigan’s tenure, he worked to get the city’s first anti-discrimination ordinance passed, focused on infrastructure improvements and created a Health Equity Summit.

Updated: January 9, 2023 at 10:41 AM EST
January 17, 2023: This story has been updated to include information about the first Republican joining the race.

January 9, 2023: This story has been updated to reflect Dominique Waters dropping out of the race.
Corrected: January 3, 2023 at 8:09 PM EST
This story originally stated that Councilman Shammas Malik was the first candidate to declare their candidacy for mayor.
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Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.