Tara Mosley joins Shammas Malik, Marco Sommerville and Jeff Wilhite in Akron mayor's race

The short list of Akronites potentially running for mayor was growing even before the city's 62nd mayor said he won't seek a third term in 2023.

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.

Two candidates — political activist Sage Lewis, 50, and Chapel Hill resident Joshua Schaffer, 35 — have filed to run. Lewis said he will now run for council to represent Ward 8 since his councilman, Shammas Malik, announced in September that he's running for mayor of Akron.

Tara Mosley, who's represented Akron's Ward 5 since 2014, told the Beacon Journal Nov. 29 that she, too, will pursue the top administrative post in the city.

"I know that Akron’s future is bright," Mosley said, "but only if it has a leader with a positive vision for the future. And our Akronites, they just deserve access to opportunity. They deserve good housing, and they deserve to feel safe in our neighborhoods.”

Malik didn't wait for Horrigan to confirm rumors that he would not seek reelection before announcing his bid. County Councilman Jeff Wilhite and Deputy Mayor Marco Sommerville announced their candidacies shortly after Horrigan removed himself from the race.

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"I am absolutely going to run," Wilhite said a day after Horrigan announced he would not seek a third term.

Sommerville speculated that, even before Horrigan announced his plans, the current mayor would back him.

As the filing deadline approaches and with Horrigan's decision throwing the race wide open, the Beacon Journal will keep this list updated as the filing deadline approaches.

Shammas Malik (running for mayor)

Shammas Malik (left) announces he's running for Akron City Council Ward 8 as Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Marilyn Keith, current Ward 8 council person listen at a candidacy party at the Akrona Galleries on West Market Street on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. Keith is running for an Council-at-large seat. Keith is running for an Council-at-large seat. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal/Ohio.com]
Shammas Malik (left) announces he's running for Akron City Council Ward 8 as Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Marilyn Keith, current Ward 8 council person listen at a candidacy party at the Akrona Galleries on West Market Street on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. Keith is running for an Council-at-large seat. Keith is running for an Council-at-large seat. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal/Ohio.com]

In his first term as the councilman for Ward 8, Malik has proven 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.

Tara Mosley (running for mayor)

Tara Mosley
Tara Mosley

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.

Marco Sommerville (running for mayor)

Akron Deputy Mayor Marco Sommerville, left, and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan arrive for the calling hours and funeral last month for Jayland Walker at the Akron Civic Theatre. The shooting death of Walker by Akron police caused an outcry locally and nationally for police reform and liability.
Akron Deputy Mayor Marco Sommerville, left, and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan arrive for the calling hours and funeral last month for Jayland Walker at the Akron Civic Theatre. The shooting death of Walker by Akron police caused an outcry locally and nationally for police reform and liability.

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.

Latest:Deputy Mayor Marco Sommerville announces Akron mayoral campaign

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)

Summit County Council District 4 representative Jeff Wilhite
Summit County Council District 4 representative Jeff Wilhite

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.

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.

Dominique K. Waters (leaning toward not running)

Dominique K. Waters has been thinking “why?” since he moved back to Akron in 2020.

The Akron native left for Central State University in 2007 and worked in luxury consulting in New York City for seven years after earning his degree.

"Since moving back, I have observed an intense climate in our city: public schools 'look' appealing but students aren’t going to school, and we cannot staff with a sufficient amount of teachers," Waters said in a Faceboook post he's had pinned to the top of his feed since mid-August. "There seems to be very minimal after-school programming for students to continue their learnings once the leave the classroom. The city is plagued by violence, racial tension and a strong distrust between police and the citizens of our great city. Morale seems low and we have lost hope in our future, our leadership, and the pride that makes Akron so special."

Holding his decision until after the midterms, Waters said he's considering a run for mayor because Akronites need "leaders in our city who not only have the experience but the 'leadership' capacity to unite and inspire this place we call home. We need someone with a transformative and diverse perspective that can create change in our city that you can both see and feel."

Mike Williams (undecided)

Mike Williams
Mike Williams

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's been hearing for a year that Horrigan may not run again, but he's withholding his decision to run until the sitting mayor makes up his mind.

"I've always taken the position: Never say never," said Williams, 65.

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 for Akron mayor as an independent.
The Rev. Greg Harrison is considering running for Akron mayor 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 stands in 2019 near his tent village for homeless people in Akron.
Sage Lewis stands in 2019 near his tent village for homeless people in Akron.

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.

Josh Sines ran for mayor in 2019 when it became evidently clear that the party had no other candidate. He died last year.

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.”

Defense attorney and former Akron mayoral candidate Eddie Sipplen says he has no interest in running for office again.
Defense attorney and former Akron mayoral candidate Eddie Sipplen says he has no interest in running for office again.

Reach reporter Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com 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