By Stephanie Warsmith Beacon Journal staff writer – When results from the Nov. 8 election are tallied, Akron City Council could end up with no female representation.
It’s more likely that council will have one or two women, but even that would be significantly fewer than the four out of 13 seats women claimed from 2007 until last year.
The shift concerns some, including Kelli Crawford, the Ward 10 representative who chose not to run for re-election this year because of her new job with FirstEnergy Solutions. Many expect her replacement will be Garry Moneypenny, a fellow Democrat who formerly held the ward seat but also happens to be a man.
Crawford, who, at 26, was the youngest woman on council when she was elected in 2007 to take over for Moneypenny, has tried to encourage young people and women to get involved in politics, including through the Summit County Young Democrats.
“It’s unfortunate that the women of Akron will be so blatantly underrepresented,” she said, alluding to how women make up 52 percent of Akron’s population. “We as women need to look at how to recruit and retain more women.”
The waning representation of women on council is one of the highlights of the Akron City Council races in the Nov. 8 election. Others include the first official third-party candidate vying for a seat and the potential shift in the balance of power on council with at least four — and potentially five — new members.
(The possible fifth would come if Councilwoman-at-Large Linda Omobien, whose council seat is not up for election this year, wins her race for Akron Municipal Court clerk. If she wins the clerk’s job, her replacement could further deplete the number of women on council.)
The council races this year didn’t pique as much interest as the contests two years ago, with three seats — Wards 3, 4 and 5 — uncontested in both the primary and general election. Still, the primary saw two longtime incumbents — Tina Merlitti and Bob Otterman — defeated, and Marilyn Keith, the wife of former Councilman and current council Clerk Bob Keith, win a hard-fought race in Ward 8.
New members could mean change for a council facing big challenges in the coming year, including continued budget constraints and a depleted police force, coupled with concerns about safety.
Shortage of women
The reasons for the falling female representation on council are women being defeated, not seeking re-election and assuming or trying for another office.
Since 2009, Renee Greene and Tina Merlitti have lost ward races; Terry Albanese, who had represented Ward 6, narrowly was defeated in her bid for an at-large council seat; Sandra Kurt assumed a Summit County Council seat; Crawford chose not to run for re-election; and Omobien decided to run for municipal court clerk.
Greene, Merlitti, Albanese and Kurt all were (or will be) replaced by men.
Of the 18 candidates competing for the 10 ward seats in the Nov. 8 election, 15 are men. Two of the women are Republicans — Amy Page in Ward 9 and Laura Ashbury in Ward 10 — who are considered underdogs against the male candidates in those races.
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