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Updated May 14

Yes, Philadelphia, there’s an election coming up.

On May 15, you can head to your local polling place and help decide the outcome of a few important statewide elections. Although there aren’t any municipal seats up for grabs, these primaries will determine the battles for Pennsylvania governor and lieutenant governor, as well as a bunch of national and state legislative seats.

With just a few days left before voting day, we put together capsule profiles of the governor candidates, quick summaries of the LG candidates, a rundown of the questions you’ll be asked about the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, and links to more info on other races you might see on the ballot. Although Pa. is a closed primary state — i.e. you can only vote for a candidate in a particular party if you’re registered in that party — all registered voters can vote on the ballot questions.

If you’re planning to follow along on social media, here’s a list of all candidates on Philadelphia ballots who have campaign Twitter accounts.

Side note: To try and track turnout in real time, Jonathan Tannen of blog Sixty-Six Wards is asking Philadelphians to fill out this form with four quick questions right after you place your vote.

Before you do, get to know your options. Here is the procrastinator’s guide to the 2018 Pennsylvania primary.

Your polling place

Find it here. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Unless it’s your first time voting at a particular division, you do NOT need to show any identification (although if confusion about needing ID does occur, there’s a good reason why).

The Committee of Seventy, a local, nonpartisan government watchdog group, published its own Voter Guide that includes polling places and other relevant election info.


Tom Wolf, Democrat

Credit: Ed Newton

Who he is

You probably recognize this guy. Wolf, the incumbent and lone democrat vying for Pa. governor, has already been in office for three years. He unseated former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett back in 2014.

Wolf was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1948. Over the course of his career, he’s served as state revenue secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell and CEO of the Wolf Organization, a distributor of lumber and other building products. Also, at 19 years old, he low-key dropped out of college and traveled to India with the Peace Corps. (He did end up finishing his undergrad at Dartmouth and went on to get a Ph.D.)

In his first term, Wolf worked on some pretty progressive issues. He vetoed a controversial abortion bill that some opponents called one of the most restrictive in the country. And earlier this year, Wolf declared Pennsylvania’s opioid overdose crisis a statewide emergency. This designation — normally reserved for natural disasters — would help officials override regulations that would hurt the state’s ability to address the epidemic.

Oh yeah, and last year he joined Mayor Kenney to protest President Trump’s travel ban at Philly International Airport.

Three priorities

  • Wolf really wants a severance tax on natural gas extraction. Pennsylvania is currently the only “major gas-producing state” in the country without the tax, which would bring in an estimated $293 million in its first year.
  • He also wants to improve schools. He’s said in the past that the potential severance tax money would go toward Pa.’s public education. Wolf wants to expand access to pre-K and art, music and advanced placement programs.
  • Wolf said he’s committed to fighting the opioid epidemic. He’s worked to expand Medicaid coverage and instituted a prescription drug monitoring program in the state.

Three major endorsements

  • Equality Pennsylvania: “Governor Wolf and his administration have done more in his first term than any other prior administration to advance equity and inclusion for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians,” said Interim Executive Director John Dawe.
  • Pennsylvania Democratic Party: The Party unanimously endorsed Governor Tom Wolf in his reelection bid.
  • The Philadelphia Tribune: “He deserves re-election to achieve his goals of raising the minimum wage, overhauling the state’s tax structure and improve public-school funding.”

Laura Ellsworth, Republican

Who she is

One of the candidates vying to unseat Wolf, Ellsworth was born in Kingston, Pennsylvania, and now lives and works in Pittsburgh.

She’s got a background in litigation, having worked in law for 33 years. She currently serves as a partner at the Pittsburgh office of Jones Day, an international law firm where she’s regularly represented large corporations in global litigation.

Ellsworth has been pretty active in civic and community affairs. She sits on the executive committee of the Allegheny Conference, a civic organization that aims to bring together public and private sector leaders to solve problems. She’s also a chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Youth Policy Council and the Pennsylvania Economy League.

Previously, Ellsworth has also taken an interest in the arts — she worked on the boards of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Three priorities

  • Ellsworth wants to lower property taxes. To do so, she said she’ll freeze property taxes for Pennsylvania residents who have been paying them for 35 years. She also wants to institute public-private partnerships to fund programs previously contributed to by property taxes.
  • She also wants to fix up the state’s infrastructure. Ellsworth promises to make Pennsylvania’s public private partnership law more efficient, which she argues would help kickstart new projects.
  • Ellsworth has a few programs in mind to try to better the lives of Pennsylvania seniors — she’d provide them with 1,000 miles of free PA Turnpike travel, and institute workforce development and summer intern programs for retired people to mentor young people.

Three major endorsements

  • Philadelphia Inquirer: “Ellsworth brings depth to her understanding of the issues facing the state. She oversaw her law firm’s global initiatives and boasts a highly active civic life. Her understanding of the state’s  priorities — job creation, education, workforce development, among others — is supported by fact-finding and realistic thinking that goes beyond sound bites.”
  • Penn Live: “Ellsworth struck a…sensible path, saying she would press for more proactive safety measures, such as swipe-card entry systems, while the broader gun control debates play out.”
  • Carly Fiorina (former presidential candidate): “Laura Ellsworth possesses the drive, principles and conservative values to bring Pennsylvania into the forefront of the 21st Century economy.”

Paul Mango, Republican

Who he is

Mango, a retired health care consultant, lives in Pine, Pennsylvania. He ended up in Pa. because his grandfather immigrated here from Italy. Mango attended West Point, and went on to serve as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. A proud moment for Mango: accepting his diploma from President Reagan.

He then got his master’s in business from Harvard and worked for more than 20 years at Pittsburgh’s McKinsey & Co. at the helm of its health care consulting department.

The race for governor is brand new for Mango. He’s never before run for public office or attempted to enter the political sphere.

And so far he’s been pretty vocal. He hasn’t been afraid to attack his opponents on TV — he called Republican candidate Scott Wagner a deadbeat dad in a campaign advertisement and posted a video of a dancing chicken mocking him for missing a debate. He also dubbed Gov. Wolf “Thomas the Tax Engine,” and posted twenty four tweets in two days around Halloween portraying the governor as a ghost.

Three priorities

  • As a veteran himself, Mango said he wants to help veterans by smoothing the transition from combat back to the workforce. He said he would work with the VA to create different support services and improve behavioral health care systems for veterans.
  • Mango wants to end sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania. He promises he’d crack down on the cities and punish undocumented people.
  • If elected, he’ll also adjust Pennsylvania’s spending habits. He said he’ll cut back the state budget and propose $8 billion in tax cuts.

Three major endorsements

  • Vets for Trump: “Paul Mango is the best-suited candidate for helping Pennsylvania out of the budget crisis it now faces. As a veteran, he has taken the motto Duty, Honor and Country and adapted it to Duty, Honor and Commitment to the state of Pennsylvania.”
  • 20 commissioners from 16 counties: “Paul Mango is a family man, businessman and a patriot. He is a true conservative that understands that Harrisburg doesn’t know best,” Berks county Commissioner Christian Leinbach said.
  • Family Research Council Action PAC: “Pennsylvanians are looking for leaders who will keep their word in establishing a culture in which all human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives. Mr. Mango’s stellar education and success in business make him the candidate who will provide a pragmatic, solution-driven path forward for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Scott Wagner, Republican

Credit: Wagner for Governor

Who he is

What could someone who grew up shoveling horse manure…possibly do for the state of Pennsylvania?” That’s the question Wagner asks on his own campaign website. Wagner, a state senator who lives in York, Pennsylvania, said growing up as a “farm boy” helped him develop his work ethic and inspired him to enter politics.

After his farm days ended, Wagner became a businessman and made a fortune working with, well, garbage. He founded Penn Waste, a recycling and trash collection company, which is estimated to make $70 million this year.

Also, he loves President Trump. At campaign events, he’s called the President “courageous” and said he was “relieved” when he was elected. In the summer of 2016, when some republicans refused to attend that year’s national convention, Wagner told reporters he planned to buy 20,000 Trump lawn signs.

Three priorities

  • Wagner wants to cut down on spending by passing a Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which he said would put strict limits on state politicians’ powers to tax and spend.
  • He also wants to shake up the state’s pension program. Wanger plans to institute a “defined-contribution plan” for all new state and school district employees to preserve Pennsylvania’s pension plan.
  • Wagner hopes to hold public schools more accountable for their own funding by developing a system to compare public schools and charter schools across the state.

Three major endorsements

  • Pennsylvania GOP: The party chose Wagner in a standing vote.
  • Steve Bannon: “They’re not going to give you your country back,” he said. “You’re going to have to go and take it back and we’re going to start taking it back…in November when Scott Wagner runs in Pennsylvania.”
  • “Making America Great” PAC: “As one of Pennsylvania’s strongest grassroots organizations, its members will be essential in helping me win on May 15th and defeating Tom Wolf in November,” Wagner said.

Ken Krawchuk, Libertarian

Who he is

Krawchuk, 64, is a Philly guy. He was born and raised in Philly’s Feltonville neighborhood, attended St. Joe’s and now lives in Abington, Pa. He’s a freelance writer, a guest columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and an information technology professional. He founded Ken Krawchuk & Associates Ltd., an information technology consulting firm, 25 years ago.

Krawchuk is no stranger to the political game — and he’s persistent. He’s already run for governor of Pennsylvania twice before, in 1998 against Tom Ridge and in 2002 against Ed Rendell. In 1994 and 2012, Krawchuk ran for a state representative seat in District 153. Oh, and in 2000, he actually ran for vice president of the United States. Spoiler alert: he did not get it.

Three priorities

  • Lower taxes. If elected, Krawchuk has actually promised to veto every single proposed tax increase that comes across his desk.
  • He also wants to get rid of parole entirely. On his website, Krawchuk called it “insane” to let people out of prison before their entire sentence has been served, and he insists his idea would reduce crime in the state.
  • Pre-natal adoption. Stay with me on this one. Krawchuk wants to please both sides of the abortion debate by allowing people to get abortions, and then allowing pro-life groups to adopt the unborn fetuses.

Three major endorsements

Well, in 1994 when he ran for state rep, Krawchuk said he garnered support from the Pennsylvania National Rifle Association. Other than that, it doesn’t seem he has any active endorsements.

Disclaimer: Although Krawchuk is running for governor, he won’t be listed on Tuesday’s ballot. Nomination paperwork for independent/third-party candidates isn’t due until August for the November election.

Lieutenant Governor

This isn’t usually a very interesting race in Pennsylvania, but this year there are a whopping nine candidates — mostly because of the split between the incumbent governor (Wolf) and his deputy (Stack). Also, this might be the last time the position is listed separately from the governor on the ballot.

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, Democrat

Stack was sworn in three years ago as lieutenant governor, and has since then repped Pennsylvanians as probably the best-dressed state politician. Besides his flashy clothing, Stack has a decorated military history. He was a captain in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

In his current role, he established the Lt. Governor’s Veterans Task Force — which brings together various state agencies to provide services to active duty soldiers and veterans — and he chairs the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission.

Nina Ahmad, Democrat

Ahmad is a former aide to Mayor Kenney and a first-generation Bangladeshi American. She’s the president of progressive organizations like Philadelphia NOW and the local chapter of the National Organization for Women.

If she’s elected, she promises on her campaign website to “take on Donald Trump.” Ahmad would also back Gov. Wolf’s proposed tax on natural gas drillers. Read more about why she got into the race here.

Kathi Cozzone, Democrat

Cozzone was first sworn in as Chester County commissioner in 2008, and she’s been reelected to the position twice since then. She also serves on the Chester County Workforce Development Board, where she develops programs for people experiencing unemployment.

Cozzone has advocated for people in county prisons who have mental illnesses and promoted prison diversion programs like the Women’s Re-Entry Assessment and Programming Initiative.

John Fetterman, Democrat

The mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania — a small town outside Pittsburgh — Fetterman grew up in York and attended Albright College. He’s volunteered for various charitable organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and AmeriCorps, which he said inspired him to get into politics.

Fetterman worked to bring new residents, businesses and jobs to Braddock and stabilize the town’s population. In the past, he’s advocated for same-sex marriage, racial justice and ending policies based on the War on Drugs.

Ray Sosa, Democrat

Sosa has worked for more than 20 years in the private sector providing support and advice to small companies. But he’s not quite a political outsider — he’s provided legislative support to past governors on emergency management and response, hospitals, juvenile justice centers, foster care homes and nursing homes. If elected, Sosa would be the first Hispanic lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania history.

Sosa said his priorities are creating jobs, improving public schools and passing a budget. He’s lived in both Buck and Montgomery counties for the last 8 years.

Jeff Bartos, Republican

Bartos joined Scott Wagner’s campaign for governor last November. Born and raised in Berks County, he owns a contracting company and and several real estate companies in the Philly area. Barton has previously worked as a senior executive at Toll Brothers, Inc. and Mark Group, Inc. He’s has served on the board of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Kathleen Coder, Republican

A small business owner who specializes in leadership training and corporate consulting service, Coder is from Allegheny County. She’s previously worked as a Bellevue Borough Councilwoman and the secretary of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County. Coder helped found the Congress of Neighboring Communities, where she oversaw the largest real estate transaction in the county’s history.

As lieutenant governor, Coder hopes to lower taxes, create government partnerships and continue leadership on medical marijuana.

Peg Luksik, Republican

Luksik grew up in the Philly suburbs and went on to attend Clarion State University. For the last 30 years, she’s been an adviser to President Reagan’s Commission on the Family. Luksik helped found the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference and the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

She’s mostly focused on education — she previously lobbied for homeschool legislation in Pa., and she wants to stop outcome-based education and the common core.

Diana Irey Vaughan, Republican

Irey Vaughan, of Eighty Four, Pa., is running for lieutenant governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango. She’s been a commissioner in Washington County in 1995 — the only woman to ever fill that position.

Irey Vaughan said she’s passionate about fiscal and prison reform. In 1997, she implemented a Furlough Into Service program to take non-violent offenders out of the Washington County Correctional facility and introduce them to nonprofits.

Ballot Questions

Credit: Mark Henninger

At the polls on Tuesday, Philly voters will be asked to decide three ballot questions that would amend the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter. Here’s what they’ll look like (and what they actually mean):

Question 1

How the question will look on the ballot

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to require an appropriation in each annual operating budget of $500,000, or such greater amount as Council decides, to the Police Advisory Commission or any successor body or bodies?

The city’s “plain English” statement

The Home Rule Charter requires City Council to provide funds each year for the operation of each City department, board and commission. These funds are known as “appropriations.”

This proposed amendment to the Charter would require that Council include in its appropriations at least $500,000 each year for the operation of the Police Advisory Commission. The Police Advisory Commission is an agency created by Executive Order of the Mayor to provide civilian oversight of the Police Department, including policy reviews, promotion of community relations, and investigations of police policies, practices and customs. If the Commission ever is replaced, the amendment would require that Council provide the appropriations to any City agency that performs the same functions.

Question 2

How the question will look on the ballot

Shall the Educational Supplement to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to restore local control by confirming the Board of Education’s independent responsibility to administer the School District of Philadelphia, providing for public participation in the Educational Nominating Panel process, revising eligibility requirements, requiring City Council confirmation of School Board appointments, requiring a stated reason for removing a School Board Member and establishing a Parent and Community Advisory Council?

The city’s “plain English” statement

The School District of Philadelphia is currently governed by the School Reform Commission, a State-created and State-controlled entity. On July 1, 2018, the School Reform Commission will cease to exist, and governance of the District will return to the Board of Education, a City-created and City-controlled entity. The Home Rule Charter currently provides that the Mayor appoints the members of the Board of Education.

This proposed amendment would provide that the Mayor’s appointments to the Board will be effective only if approved by City Council after a public hearing. The amendment will apply to any appointments made after the amendment is approved by the voters.

The Charter currently provides that Board members serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. This means that the Mayor does not have to prove any wrongdoing in order to remove a member from the Board, though the Charter does require that the Mayor give the member written notice at least ten days advance prior to removal. The amendment would require that the written notice include the Mayor’s specific reasons why the member is no longer fit to serve on the Board.

The amendment would replace the current requirement that Board members must be registered voters of the City with a requirement that they be residents of the City.

The Charter currently requires that the Mayor choose his appointments from lists of names provided to him by the Educational Nominating Panel; and requires the Panel to invite the public to submit to the Panel names of candidates for consideration. The amendment would impose specific advertising requirements on the Panel in order to publicize the invitation and selection process.

The amendment would require the Board of Education to establish a Parent and Community Advisory Council, and to meet with the Council at least twice every year to consult on issues relating to educational policy and community engagement in schools.

Finally, the amendment provides that the Board of Education has complete responsibility to administer, manage and operate the School District; and that the School District is not an agency of the City. This confirms existing law.

Question 3

How the question will look on the ballot

Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for mandatory training for all City officers and employees regarding sexual harassment in the workplace?

The city’s “plain English” statement

Currently, no law in Philadelphia requires mandatory training for all officers and employees of the City regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. This proposed amendment to the Home Rule Charter would require that the City’s Administrative Board (the Mayor, Managing Director and Director of Finance) make rules requiring that all City officers and employees receive such training not less than once every three years.

United States Congress



Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are completely different from the last election, thanks to a new map implemented after a prolonged court battle over gerrymandering. If you’re unsure what district you’re now voting for, PMN has an interactive map here, and the state has an official map of the new district outlines here.

District 2 (includes part of Northeast Philadelphia and the River Wards)

District 3 (includes parts of Center City, South Philadelphia, Northwest Philadelphia and West Philadelphia)

District 5 (includes South Philadelphia, part of Delaware County and part of Montgomery County)

Talk about a crowded race! To find out more about each candidate, check out PMN political reporter Holly Otterbein’s series of interviews with each District 5 contender.

Pa. legislature

State Senate

Find your state senate district here.

District 2 (includes parts of Mayfair, Frankford, Juniata, Kensington, Lawncrest, Oxford Circle)

  • Incumbent Christine Tartaglione, Democrat

District 4 (includes parts of Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Germantown, West Oak Lane)

  • Incumbent Art Haywood, Democrat
  • James Williams Jr., Republican

District 8 (includes parts of Southwest Philly, Kingsessing, University City, Cobbs Creek, Spruce Hill, Cedar Park, Point Breeze, Grays Ferry)

  • Incumbent Anthony Williams, Democrat

State House of Representatives

Find your state rep district here.

District 152 (includes parts of the far Northeast, including Bustleton)

  • Daryl Boling, Democrat
  • Incumbent Thomas Murt, Republican

District 170 (includes parts of Somerton)

  • Michael Doyle Jr., Democrat
  • Incumbent Martina White, Republican

District 172 (includes parts of Rhawnhurst, Fox Chase, Burholme, Bustleton)

  • Incumbent Kevin Boyle, Democrat

District 173 (includes parts of Holmesburg, Torresdale, Andalusia)

  • Incumbent Michael Driscoll, Democrat

District 174 (includes parts of Rhawnhurst, Torresdale)

  • Incumbent Edward Neilson, Democrat

District 175

  • Deborah Derricks, Democrat
  • Incumbent Michael O’Brien, Democrat

District 177 (inlcudes parts of Port Richmond, Mayfair, Harrowgate)

  • Margaret Borski, Democrat
  • Joseph Hohenstein, Democrat
  • Sean Kilkenny, Democrat
  • Daniel Martino, Democrat
  • Patty Kozlowski, Republican

District 179 (includes parts of Frankford, Olney, Lawncrest)

  • Incumbent Jason Dawkins, Democrat
  • Abu Edwards, Democrat

District 180 (includes parts of Juniata, Harrowgate)

  • Incumbent Angel Cruz, Democrat

District 181 (includes parts of Callowhill, West Poplar, Francisville)

  • Jason Deering, Democrat
  • Gilberto Gonzalez, Democrat
  • Malcolm Kenyatta, Democrat
  • Lewis Nash Sr., Democrat
  • Lewis Thomas III, Democrat
  • T. Milton Street, Republican

District 182 (includes parts of Rittenhouse, Fairmount, Gayborhood, Bella Vista)

  • Incumbent Brian Sims, Democrat

District 184 (includes parts of East Passyunk, Pennsport, South Philly)

  • Nicholas Didonato Jr., Democrat
  • Elizabeth Fiedler, Democrat
  • Jonathan Rowan, Democrat
  • Thomas Wyatt, Democrat

District 185 (includes parts of Girard Estates, Point Breeze, Southwest Philly)

  • Incumbent Maria Donatucci, Democrat

District 186 (includes parts of Grays Ferry, Point Breeze, Graduate Hospital, Kingsessing)

  • Incumbent Jordan Harris, Democrat

District 188 (includes parts of Cedar Park, Spruce Hill, University City, Kingsessing)

  • Jeffrey Curry, Democrat
  • Incumbent James Roebuck Jr., Democrat
  • Diane Settles, Democrat

District 190 (includes parts of Mantua, Overbrook, Wynnefield, Wynnefield Heights)

  • Raymond Bailey Sr., Democrat
  • Incumbent Vanessa Lowery Brown, Democrat
  • Wanda Logan, Democrat

District 191  (includes parts of Cobbs Creek, Southwest Philly)

  • Incumbent Joanna McClinton, Democrat

District 192 (includes parts of Overbrook, Wynnefield)

  • Incumbent Morgan Cephas, Democrat

District 194 (includes parts of East Falls, Manayunk, Roxborough)

  • Incumbent Pamela DeLissio, Democrat

District 195 (includes parts of Strawberry Mansion, Fairmount, Brewerytown)

  • Incumbent Donna Bullock, Democrat

District 197 (includes parts of Fairhill, Kensington, Huntin Park, Francisville)

  • Danilo Burgos, Democrat
  • Frederick Ramirez, Democrat
  • Incumbent Emilio Vazquez, Democrat

District 198 (includes parts of Germantown, Hunting Park, Fern Rock)

  • Bernard Williams, Democrat
  • Incumbent Rosita Youngblood, Democrat

District 200 (includes parts of Chestnut Hill, East Mt. Airy, West Mt. Airy)

  • Incumbent Christopher Rabb, Democrat
  • Melissa Scott, Democrat

District 201 (includes parts of East Oak Lane, Germantown, Logan)

  • Incumbent Stephen Kinsey, Democrat

District 202 (includes parts of Oxford Circle, Castor)

  • Incumbent Jared Solomon, Democrat

District 203 (includes parts of East Oak Lane, West Oak Lane, Lawncrest)

  • Incumbent Isabella Fitzgerald, Democrat
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Michaela Winberg

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...