This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Your browser does not support the audio tag.
As disagreements in recent years between Philadelphia’s mayor and City Council have shown, Council’s 17 members can collectively wield a lot of power.
(Exhibit 1 from this year: The foiled sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, a situation in which Council refused to even hold a hearing on Mayor Nutter’s plan to sell the utility to a private company.)
In Tuesday’s primary, all 17 Council seats are up for re-election, but only a few races are expected to be competitive.
Of the 10 district seats, six Council members are running unopposed, so consider those champagne corks already popped.
De facto coasting to new, four-year terms will be Mark Squilla (First District), Jannie Blackwell (Third District), Curtis Jones (Fourth District), Council President Darrell Clarke (Fifth District), Bobby Henon (Sixth District), and Brian O’Neill (10th District).
Only two district races feature real competition.
The Second District – which covers Southwest Philadelphia and parts of South Philly that have rapidly gentrified – has been the most hotly contested race. Incumbent Kenyatta Johnson faces real estate developer Ori Feibush.
The Seventh District – which covers a large swath of North Philly – has also been competitive. Incumbent Maria Quiñones Sanchez has won twice without the backing of the party establishment. Her competitor, Manny Morales, found himself in hot water after word spread about bigoted posts on his Facebook page. Morales says he wasn’t responsible for those posts.
In the Eighth District, incumbent Cindy Bass faces opposition from Michael Galganski, who’s running in a party of his own creation, the Free Dominion Party.
With Councilwoman Marian Tasco retiring, State Rep. Cherelle Parker is expected to fill the vacancy in the Ninth District. She’ll face client relations manager Kevin Strickland, a Republican, in the general election in the fall.
At-large, in charge
The entire city can vote for seven at-large Council members.
Voters registered either Democrat or Republican can vote for five candidates in their party. Top vote-getters win the seven seats, but the City Charter ensures that at least two of these seats go to the minority party.
In Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber the GOP by a 7-1 ratio, typically the at-large seats split five for Democrats and two for Republicans.
The current Democratic incumbents are Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode Jr., Bill Greenlee, and Ed Neilson.
Based on name recognition and connections to power brokers, incumbents typically win. But in this race, at least one newcomer will take a seat because Jim Kenney retired from his at-large seat to run for mayor.
A big field of newcomers is vying for the at-large spots. Of these, eight are considered to have a shot, based on fundraising and name recognition. Earlier this week, we analyzed the at-large candidates’ campaign finance reports, showing who gave what to whom.