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Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates are vying for the nomination in a crowded primary

Philadelphia Democrats went to the polls Tuesday to choose their party’s mayoral nominee, who could become the city’s 100th mayor — the city is heavily Democratic and hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since the 1950s.

Voting closes at 8 pm EDT. With nearly 24% of precincts reporting, Cherelle Parker led with 33.54% of the vote, with Rebecca Rhynhart a distant second with 22.32%.

Philadelphia’s mayoral election is headed into primary day

Recent polls show five Democrats — Parker, Rinehart, Helen Zimm, Alan Domb and Jeff Brown — have a shot at winning, including three women who could become the city’s first female mayor. April is a non-partisan nonprofit Committee of SeventyAll five of its surveys found statistical ties.

According to CBS Philadelphia, polling indicates that 1 in 5 Democratic voters here are still undecided. The top five candidates are all campaigning hard leading up to primary day.

Philadelphia and National Democrats

Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth largest city by population, is a key city for Democrats nationally in the swing state of Pennsylvania. President Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by nearly 80,000 votesMost are coming from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and surrounding suburbs.

What to see in Election 2023

FILE: Mayoral candidates, left to right, Jeff Brown, Helen Zim, Rebecca Rinehart, Cheryl Parker, state Rep. Amen Brown and Alan Domb participate in a Democratic primary debate at WPVI-TV studios in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 25, 2023.

Matt Rourke/AP

“It’s one of the few states that’s very close to the 2020 election, and I think for the Democrats in Pennsylvania, the big issue for the mayor is not just to govern the city, but to energize the voters, to get them out. There will be votes in the presidential election,” said Drexel University. Political Science Professor William Drexel.

National Democrats are eyeing the state — Mr. Biden has endorsed a candidate in a special General Assembly race on Tuesday. Democrats took control of the Assembly in November for the first time since 2010, but state Rep. Mike Zabe resigned in March after sexual harassment allegations. Although Jaber’s former district is located in the increasingly blue Philadelphia suburbs, Democrats are taking no chances in the race, having raised more than $1 million since April for the race.

The most expensive Philadelphia mayoral race in history

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the mayoral race in Philadelphia is the most expensive in the city’s history, with two candidates — Derek Greene and Maria Quionez Sanchez — dropping out because the race was too expensive.

More than $14 million of the $24 million spent came from the two wealthiest candidates who are funding their races, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Domb, a real estate developer, poured $10.2 million into his race, and Brown, a Philadelphia grocery store chain owner, contributed $3 million to his campaign.

Two other pioneers – Jim and Rinehart – each raised about $2 million and Parker $1.7 million.

The mayoralty is a problem

Dominating the race was a crime, though all candidates generally agreed to fight it. Poverty and living standards have also been major issues.

“You get this real discontent, which I think is natural,” said Richardson Dilworth, head of Drexel’s political science department and author of “Reforming Philadelphia 1682-2022.” He said of Mayor Jim Kenney, “Fairly or unfairly, the current mayor has been absolutely screwed for not doing much — hiding away and stuff like that.”

Dilworth said there is a need to feel “somebody’s home, in some sense” among voters.

Mayoral candidates

Jim, a former teacher, community organizer and city council member, is a progressive in the race. And he got a boost from two of the country’s best-known progressives when both Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for him last week.

Parker, a former Philadelphia City Council member, has been endorsed by many ward leaders and other local political leaders. And Mayor Kenny also said he voted for Parker. He is the only black candidate left in the race, and 44% of the city’s population is black. Parker garnered support from many leaders in the Black community, but it was not enough to give him the lead.

Rhynhart, meanwhile, has been supported by major Democratic figures including former mayors Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter, as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer. Rhynhart is a former Philadelphia controller and tried to distinguish himself in policy.

Although all three women collected union endorsements, Brown won the coveted endorsement of the city’s largest municipal union.

Because the May primary falls in an off-election year, voter turnout is expected to be low. At the polls, candidates continue to try to garner their support. Sanders, in his speech on Sunday, told voters, “There is no doubt in my mind that Helen is the next mayor of Philadelphia,” if everyone in the crowd votes and brings a few friends or family to the polls.

Whoever wins Tuesday’s primary will face Republican Richard Oh in November.

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