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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Akron Rep. Emilia Sykes is stepping down as leader of Ohio House Democrats

 House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), at a press conference with House Democrats in December 2019. [Andy Chow /  Statehouse News Bureau]
House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), at a press conference with House Democrats in December 2019.

Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) is stepping down after three years in that position. Democrats will meet soon to select a new head of their caucus.

The 35-year-old Sykes is a lawyer with a masters degree in public health. Next year she is term limited. In a written statement, she said she’s not stepping away from service – “far from it,” and that she’s considering any and all options, in elected office or as a private citizen.

In an interview a year ago, Sykes described herself as a “reluctant legislator” who didn’t have a path to higher office planned out, but she added, “If there’s an opportunity that presents itself and I feel like I can win, I can do a good job, I can continue to serve people effectively, then I’ll certainly look into it.”

Sykes worked to get cameras into House committee rooms, a project that had been discussed for years. Sykes has sponsored and backed bills on increasing gun regulations, dating violence and the gender pay gap. Sykes spoke out on issues involving racism, including the resolutions to declare racism a public health crisis and the racial health gap, and asked for an investigation after she said she was unfairly singled out by Statehouse security.

Sykes took over after a shakeup among House Democrats in January 2019. Then-minority leader Fred Strahorn stepped down after backing incumbent Republican Ryan Smith for speaker, while Sykes and most of the House Democratic caucus worked with and backed Larry Householder, who won. Householder was removed from leadership after being arrested in the nuclear bailout corruption scandal last year and was expelled from the House this year.

Sykes is widely considered to be preparing to run for the 13 th Congressional district.

A Sykes has served in the House seat representing the Akron area since 1983. Vernon Sykes, now in his second Senate term, serving in the House from 1983 to 2000 and left because of term limits. His wife Barbara served till 2006, when Vernon Sykes won the seat again. Emilia Sykes, their daughter, succeeded her father in 2015.

Emilia and Vernon Sykes both served on the Ohio Redistricting Commission this year.

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