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Who's running for mayor in Canton? Voters will decide between familiar faces and newcomers in 2023

City of Canton
Canton, pictured above, will elect a new mayor this year.

Canton voters will elect a new mayor in 2023 — the first time the city will have a new mayor since 2016.

Six Democrats and one Republican have declared candidacies so far. Many of them are familiar faces in Stark County politics, while several are political newcomers.

Two of the Democratic candidates are currently serving on Canton City Council — William Sherer II, the council president, and Bill Smuckler, majority leader.

Former State Rep. Thomas West is also running. West represented District 49 starting in 2017, but lost his bid for reelection in 2022. He previously served as a Canton councilman.

Willis Gordon, former political chairman at the Stark County NAACP; Kim Bell, a former paralegal, and Matthew Harman, a social activist, are also running on the Democrat side.

Lifelong Canton resident Roy Scott DePew is the sole Republican in the race. Christopher Harkovitch had pulled a petition to run, but told Ideastream Public Media he will be dropping out of the race.

Canton on the rise

Mayor Thomas Bernabei announced late last year he will not seek a third term.

Bernabei, who first ran as an independent in 2015, ran unopposed as a Democrat during the 2019 election.

The change in leadership comes as the city undergoes one of its biggest economic projects ever — the construction and development of the Hall of Fame Village.

The multi-million-dollar expansion of the Pro Football Hall of Fame has already begun, with several new buildings, including the country’s largest inflatable domed facility, retail plazas and a new stadium. A waterpark, hotel and sportsbook are forthcoming in the project’s third phase of construction.

The city is also grappling with racial justice after a recent police shooting of a Black man, James Williams, who was shot to death by officer Robert Huber after firing gunshots in the air on New Years Day in 2022. A Stark County grand jury declined to bring charges against Huber.

The race is nearly identical to the mayoral election in nearby Akron: The 2-term incumbent is not seeking re-election. There are seven candidates, six Democrats and one Republican. And six men and one woman are running.

The primary takes place in May. The filing deadline for the primary is Feb. 1.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.