Two more candidates to announce run for Erie mayor this week

ERIE, Pa. -- The race for Erie's next mayor is heating up as two additional candidates plan to officially announce their bids later this week.

City councilman Bob Merski and retired PNC Bank wealth adviser Joe Schember plan to join a growing list to run for mayor of the city of Erie.

So far, County Council president Jay Breneman, Edinboro professor Lisa Austin, Erie Playhouse executive director Almi Clerkin and former City councilwoman Rubye Jenkins-Husband have already announced to run on the Democratic ticket.

Al Zimmer, 73, a retired security guard, is the only Republican to announce a run for mayor. However, attorney John Persinger told Action News that he will likely run on the Republican ticket. He has yet to officially announce his bid.

Erie usually votes along Democratic party lines, so whoever wins the Democrat primary will be favored to be Erie's next mayor.

"Republicans haven't won an election in Erie since 1961,” president of the Jefferson Educational Society William Garvey said. “The Republican base then was about 45 percent, now the Republican base is at about 25 percent.”

Political analyst Michael Federici said the next four months are the most crucial when it comes to the mayoral race.

Federici said it's all about raising money and name recognition, and the Democrat to do those things most successfully will likely be Erie's next mayor.

"With so many candidates, depending on how strong they are, you could potentially win a primary with only 25 percent of the vote. Not even getting one-third of the vote,” Federici said.

Major challenges, such as a shrinking tax base, gun violence and the opioid epidemic, will be key issues in the race, according to Federici.

"If you don't have name recognition you have to spend more time and money establishing it,” Federici said. “If you already have it, and gives you the advantage of focusing more on things like issues, leadership experience and ability. It's just you're already a step or two ahead in the campaign game."


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