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Three months until the election, and six candidates (with the possibility of a seventh) are competing for mayor. How will different neighborhoods vote? Will cash even matter? And is anyone even paying attention to the mayor’s race? To provide a little clarity about how this election could turn out, Billy Penn dived into statistics related to the 2007 election and how they could affect this year’s election.

How much do we care about electing our next mayor?

You might have watched our video last week in which many regular Philadelphians had no idea who was running for mayor. Does that mean nobody pays attention or votes in the mayoral race? Not quite. The mayor’s race may not receive our city’s undivided attention, but people at least don’t hold as much apathy for the mayor’s race as they do for the governor’s. Here’s how the 2007 mayoral primary breaks down in terms of voters and participation rate compared to the 2008 presidential primary and 2010 gubernatorial primary. All three of these races contained no incumbents.

  • 2007 Mayoral: 309,329 voters, 31 percent turnout
  • 2008 Presidential: 464,592 voters, 45 percent turnout
  • 2010 Gubernatorial: 176,505 voters, 17 percent turnout

Though 31 percent turnout is still nothing to brag about and trending lower, today’s Philadelphians can at least argue they’re more civic-minded than their parents and grandparents based on registered voters. Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, not even half our city was registered to vote. The number of registered voters has hovered around 67 percent in the last decade.

Money matters

How much money does it cost to win an election? In 2007, Michael Nutter spent about $4.6 million, Thomas Knox $11.5 million, Dwight Evans $3.2 million, Bob Brady $2.7 million and Chaka Fattah $2.2 million. Who spent it the most wisely? Obviously Nutter because he won. But if you look at the situation in terms of cost per vote, he also wins out, with his 106,805 votes costing $43 each. Runner-up Knox spent nearly four times that much per vote. The average cost per vote was about $84. Here’s how it broke down for all the candidates.

The candidates combined spent about $24 million in 2007. This election will likely not come close to that, though “dark money” from PACs associated with education, big business and labor unions will probably influence this race to the tune of millions. There’s no way to predict whether one or two candidates will attract an unlikely amount of donors and attention or pour a ton of their own money into the race these next three months, but it’s unlikely they’ll spend even one-fourth as much as the 2007 candidates given the status of their current election accounts.

Back in 2007 the top five candidates’ total spending for the primary was an average of about 3.15 times more than the cash they had on hand when they filed their first reports.

If the top six candidates in this race spend 3.15 times as much as they had in their election accounts, they’ll only spend about $2.5 million (plus the $165K the combined candidates have already spent according to their first finance reports), with only Tony Williams spending more than $1 million. The average cost per vote if the same amount of people voted as in 2007 would be about $8.50.

That figure seems ridiculously low and historically it is. Another way to gauge the possible spending for this year’s race would be to look at contributions to the 2007 candidates during the final two reporting periods of their election, minus Knox, who got most of his money from himself. The other four candidates raised a total of about $6.9 million in this timeframe, with highest raised at $2.3 million and the lowest at $1.7 million. If each of the six main candidates raised $1.7 million and spent all of it, that would put estimated spending in this year’s race at a total of $10.2 million.

How did different neighborhoods vote in 2007? 

Philadelphia is split into 66 wards of differing sizes. Sometimes multiple neighborhoods fit into one ward and sometimes one neighborhood fits into multiple wards. Here are the five biggest and five smallest wards in the city, using voter turnout from the 2007 primary, and the neighborhoods that are part of those wards.


  • 21st Ward: 9,853 voters, Roxborough/Manayunk area
  • 39th Ward: 9,806 voters, South Philly, including parts of Pennsport, East Passyunk but largely farther south like Whitman and Lower Moyamensing and the area by the stadiums.
  • 34th Ward: 9,337 voters, Far West Philadelphia, with neighborhoods like Overbrook and Carroll Park
  • 50th Ward: 8,780 voters, Northwest Philadelphia, the portion east of Chestnut Hill and north of Germantown
  • 66th Ward: 8,481 voters, Far Northeast Philadelphia


  • 47th Ward: 1,248 voters, Lower North Philadelphia, west of Temple
  • 20th Ward: 1,481 voters, Lower North Philadelphia, east of Temple
  • 14th Ward: 1,737 voters, roughly the Poplar neighborhood, west of Northern Liberties
  • 27th Ward: 1,994 voters, roughly University City
  • 19th Ward: 2,254 voters, roughly West Kensington

When Nutter won in 2007, he dominated in Center City, North Philly and Southwest Philly. Brady and Knox outdid him in areas of the Northeast and South Philly that have predominantly white populations. Here are the top three candidates and their totals for 10 different neighborhoods (pieced together by looking at division boundaries within wards). The neighborhoods highlighted in red signal areas won by Nutter. The neighborhoods highlighted in blue signal areas won by Knox. You can click on any of those neighborhoods to find the top three vote-getters and their vote totals.

Philly then vs. Philly now 

Finally, everyone talks about a changed Philadelphia. Comparing 2007 U.S. Census American Community Survey data to 2013 data (the most recent available), here’s how the changes look and how they might benefit certain candidates.


Philadelphia has about 33 percent more people between the ages of 20-34. If the young people show up to vote, they could easily turn the race around — a big if. If just the 100,000 more people between age 20 and 34 voted for a single candidate, it would probably be enough to win the race, considering Nutter won with just over 100,000 votes in 2007.


Whereas the white population and black populations have decreased, the Latino/Hispanic population has increased. They’re still a small minority but as the lone Latino candidate, Diaz stands to benefit.

Lastly, Philadelphia is wealthier now wealthier than it was in 2007. In 2007, 38 percent of households had annual incomes of $25,000 or lower and 20 percent had incomes of $75,000 or greater. In 2013, those numbers dropped to 36 percent for $25,000 and lower and increased to 23 percent for $75,000 and greater.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...