There are no municipal races to vote on in Philly this fall, and most prominent statewide races in Pennsylvania aren’t that competitive. However, like in every election, the votes cast on Nov. 6 will have a far-reaching effect.
Midterm elections are considered a referendum on the status quo, so your vote will be considered a reflection on the politicians currently in office. Even more important, your vote will help determine who’ll represent you (and hopefully your best interests) at the state and federal levels.
For all those reasons, it’s worth spending some time to find out whose fortunes you’re boosting when you push that VOTE button.
Take a look through this guide now, then bookmark it for a quick refresher on your way to the polls Tuesday.
Scroll down for more or use these links to jump to the sections below:
Your polling place
Find it here. You can also try looking it up via a new app by Think Company that lets you just scan in your driver’s license. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Unless it’s your first time voting at a particular location, you do NOT need to show any identification.
Have other day-of question, like whether you can take a selfie in the voting booth, or bring in your kids? Check out our easy FAQ.
To help inform your votes, we created easy explainers around various hot-button topics. Click through to get a refresh on:
Philadelphians will see one question on their ballots this year. It will read:
“Should the City of Philadelphia borrow one hundred eighty-one million dollars ($181,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?”
Here’s the borrowing breakdown, per City Council:
- Transit: $5.171 million
- Streets and Sanitation: $36.932 million
- Municipal Buildings: $97.741 million
- Parks, Recreation and Museums: $26.591 million
- Economic and Community Development: $14.565 million
A spokesperson for the mayor told the Philadelphia Tribune the bonds could cost the city roughly $14.5 million a year in interest, depending on market conditions.
Gov. Tom Wolf and his Republican opponent, former state Sen. Scott Wagner, are both from York County. The similarities end there. Wolf is a soft-spoken one-term governor known for progressive policies like expanding Medicaid, his unapologetic support of abortion rights and having overseen some blistering budget battles. Wagner, on the other hand, has been a brash Trump-before-Trump conservative since his entry into politics in 2014, when he won a write-in campaign against an incumbent. He’s made a point of holding dozens of town halls in the lead-up to Nov. 6. While his availability to voters has drawn praised, he’s also found himself in hot water for comments made at these events like calling a woman “young and naive.” Most polls show Wolf with a double-digit lead over Wagner, but if the commonwealth has learned anything in recent years, it’s that polls aren’t always right.
Tom Wolf, Democrat (incumbent)
You probably recognize this guy. Incumbent Gov. Wolf has already been in office almost four 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.
In his first term, Wolf worked on mostly progressive issues. He vetoed a controversial abortion bill that some opponents called one of the most restrictive in the country. He signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana, but he’s less excited about recreational marijuana. Earlier this year, Wolf declared Pennsylvania’s opioid overdose crisis a statewide emergency. This designation is normally reserved for natural disasters — and would help officials address the epidemic.
- Wolf wants a $12-an-hour minimum wage.
- He wants more money for public education.
- And he really wants a severance tax on natural gas extraction.
Three major endorsements
Scott Wagner, Republican
“What could someone who grew up shoveling horse manure…possibly do for the state of Pennsylvania?” That’s the question Wagner, a former state senator, asks on his campaign website. The York, Pennsylvania native founded Penn Waste, a recycling and trash collection company estimated to make $70 million this year.
In his political career, he’s co-introduced clean slate legislation and supported a pro-LGBTQ bill. Wagner’s against abortion access and has previously said that your “plumbing” (aka the gender you were assigned at birth) should dictate which bathroom you use. One time, his campaign accidentally sent Billy Penn a meme mocking transgender people.
- Wagner wants to pass a Taxpayers Bill of Rights, limiting state politicians’ power to tax.
- He wants to shake up the state’s pension program with a contribution plan for new state employees.
- And he wants to hold public schools accountable for their own funding by developing a system to compare public and charter schools.
Three major endorsements
Ken Krawchuk, Libertarian
Krawchuk, 64, is a Philly guy. He was born and raised in Feltonville, 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.
Krawchuk prioritizes lowering taxes, getting rid of parole and instituting pre-natal adoption — stay with me on this one — allowing pro-life groups to adopt unborn fetuses.
Politically, the guy is 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.
Paul Glover, Green
Glover is a 71-year-old community organizer, author and former professor. A Philly resident, he spent his life founding various iterations of the Green Party in Los Angeles and Ithaca, New York. In the latter city, he worked as Ralph Nader’s campaign manager during Nader’s bid for mayor.
Glover taught urban studies at Temple and Philadelphia University. In 2007, he founded the Philadelphia Orchard Project, which plants gardens in vacant lots and parks.
If elected governor, Glover wants to build local communities and promote environmental justice.
You won’t see an incumbent lieutenant governor on your ballot. That’s because the semi-controversial Democrat who currently holds the seat, Mike Stack, lost the primary to progressive favorite John Fetterman. Also, there’s no mixing and matching this time around. While Democrats and Republicans got to pick candidates for governor and his lieutenant separately in the primary, the candidates run together on the same ticket in November, so factor in the below when you decide which lever to pull.
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. Now he’s a big supporter of single-payer healthcare, recreational marijuana and a path to citizenship for immigrants.
Jeff Bartos, Republican
Bartos joined Scott Wagner’s campaign for governor last November — before he was actually supposed to, since the official tickets are decided by the May 2018 primary. He supports the death penalty and medical marijuana (but not recreational), and he opposes gun control.
Born and raised in Berks County, Bartos owns a contracting company and several real estate companies in the Philly area. He’s previously worked as a senior executive at Toll Brothers, Inc. and Mark Group, Inc., and served on the board of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Kathleen Smith, Libertarian
A Western Pennsylvania resident, Smith is 61 years old and used to work as a retail manager in Pittsburgh before she retired. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in special education, and went on to serve on the board for the Canon-McMillan School District.
Smith is now the manager of the Libertarian Party’s Washington County chapter, plus the local group the Business and Professional Women of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
If elected, Smith said she’ll try to reduce the size of state government, decriminalize drug use and stop licensing requirements for local businesses.
Connect with Smith: Facebook
Jocolyn Bowser-Bostick, Green
Bowser-Bostick is another Philadelphia native — she attended public school here and went on to CCP, then graduated with a biology degree from Temple. After moving to Chester, Pennsylvania she worked for two decades as a laboratory technician in Jersey.
Bowser-Bostick chairs the Green Party of Delaware County and serves as an at-large delegate for the statewide Green Party steering committee. If elected to serve Pennsylvania, she has lofty goals: cutting the U.S. military budget by half and implementing universal health care and tuition-free college education.
Connect with Bowser-Bostick: Facebook
More so than the governor’s race, the faceoff between Democrat Sen. Bob Casey and Republican U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta has become a litmus test of Donald Trump’s staying power in Pennsylvania. State residents helped propel Trump into the White House with a victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Two years later, he may be a mixed blessing.
Despite Trump’s close support of Barletta, Casey, an incumbent seeking his third six-year term, has so far outperformed his opponent in the polls and fundraising. Immigration and healthcare are pivotal issues in this race. (No surprise there.)
Bob Casey, Democrat (incumbent)
A Scranton native and son of a former governor, Casey has earned a moderate reputation in the Senate over the last 12 years. He’s also weathered criticism of being ineffective — a lawmaker with no signature issue.
Since Trump’s election, however, he’s gained new followers by upping his “woke” game on Twitter and pitching himself as a stalwart defender against the president’s agenda. He has also won (and lost) followers for his shift from pro-gun to pro-gun control politics.
Casey still remains a centrist in many ways. He’s an avowed pro-life Democrat who has also voted for pro-choice legislation in recent years. His campaign has been heavily focussed on healthcare — a key swing issue for middle-of-the-road Republicans.
- Casey supports expanding the federal minimum wage.
- He wants to support Obamacare and maintain coverage for pre-existing conditions.
- He wants to double border patrol staffing, implement 24-hour border surveillance technology and create pathways to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants — so long as they are “law-abiding and learn English.”
Three major endorsements
- Barack Obama and Joe Biden
- Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
- End Citizens United
Lou Barletta, Republican
Barletta was a immigration hardliner long before Trump appeared on the political landscape. As mayor of Hazleton, he cracked down on undocumented immigrants and rode that momentum into the U.S. House of Representatives, where he has railed against sanctuary city policies since 2011.
Since then, Trump and Barletta two have become inseparably entwined on many issues, from serious to silly. Barletta adopted the president’s derisive nickname for Casey, “Sleeping Bob.” He also walked back his support of Trump’s widely criticized family separation policy at the same time as the commander-in-chief.
A consistently pro-life and pro-2nd amendment vote in D.C., the congressman has also emphasized his pro-business and job-growth policies. He has been less vocal about his healthcare voting record on the campaign trail — especially his vote to repeal and replace Obamacare.
- Barletta wants to crush sanctuary cities and build stronger border security.
- He wants to roll back business regulations and “make government run more like a business.”
- He supports improving — but not expanding — background checks for firearm purchases.
Three major endorsements
- U.S. President Donald Trump
- National Federation of Independent Business
- Fraternal Order of Police lodges in Pittsburgh, Hazleton and the Lehigh Valley
- Bonus endorsement: His golden retriever
Dale Kerns, Libertarian
An electrical contractor who lives in Delaware County, Kerns has said that Republicans and Democrats in Washington are “exactly the same.” His traditionally libertarian views include rangling in federal oversight and restoring state-level power on contentious issues like gun control and abortion.
Neal Gale, Green
Gale, an Abington resident, has worked in environmental conservation for more than 40 years. His primary issue is supporting clean and renewable energy, halting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and ending resource-driven military ventures abroad.
U.S. House of Representatives
A January ruling by the Pa. Supreme Court against partisan gerrymandering means voters across Pennsylvania will be voting in brand new congressional districts. To make things extra confusing, some voters will also cast ballots in special elections for their old districts. Happily, that’s not the case for voters in Philadelphia proper. Confused about which district you’re actually voting in? Use this map to figure it out.
Brendan Boyle, Democrat (incumbent)
First elected to Congress in 2014, Boyle, a former state lawmaker, sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and also co-founded the Blue Collar Caucus. Boyle, the son of an Irish immigrant, is a frequent critic of the president, on everything from the GOP tax bill to the Russian collusion investigation.
David Torres, Republican
A North Philadelphia since age 12, Torres has made a career working in drug treatment, homeless services and other outreach programs. He is campaigning hard on two issues: the opioid epidemic (expanding treatment funding) and immigration (he supports reforming pathways to citizenship). He posts all of his campaign materials in English and Spanish.
Dwight Evans, Democrat (incumbent)
Evans, a multi-decade veteran of the Pa. House, is seeking his second term in newly redrawn 3nd District, where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 9-to-1. Since taking the reins from disgraced former Congressman Chaka Fattah in 2016, Evans has continued to advocate for some his signature issues, including food access and urban revitalization. Like Boyle, he too has been a boisterous critic of the Trump administration.
Bryan Leib, Republican
A 33-year-old former Democrat, Leib has pitched himself as an underdog and the only millennial running for Congress in Pennsylvania. With little support from national GOP donors, Leib has campaigned on a shoestring budget trying to convince “blue-collar Democrats” to back a Philly-minded Republican. His platform is pro-Israel and anti-poverty. One of his pitches: Allocate more federal tax dollars to fund skilled trade apprenticeships for low-income residents.
Mary Gay Scanlon, Democrat
In May, Scanlon prevailed in a super-packed primary race with the Democratic nomination to take over city’s smallest congressional district, which includes parts of South and Southwest Philadelphia. While 85 percent of district voters live in Delaware County, Scanlon has worked as an attorney at Center City firm Ballard Spahr and a school board member in Swarthmore.
Pearl Kim, Republican
Kim is a former prosecutor with the Delaware County District Attorney’s office, who focussed on cases involving sexual assault and domestic violence. She ran unopposed in the Republican primary. Should she be elected, the 39-year-old Flourtown native would be the first Korean-American woman in Congress.
Only one incumbent state senator who represents Philadelphia has a challenger in this election. District 4 Democrat Art Haywood will face Republican Ron Holt, who does not appear to have a campaign website or any social media presence. Holt, the former Montgomery County register of wills, has run for and lost the District 4 seat several times before.
Unlike Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, the state’s legislative boundaries have not changed. Every voter in Philadelphia will see a state House race on their ballot — but not every race is contested. These are the ones that are.
Daryl Boling, Democrat
In a district that Hillary Clinton won 55-42, Democrats see a chance to pick up a seat in Boling, who worked on the finance side of arts organizations including the Bucks County Playhouse. Boling supports abortion access, universal background checks for firearms, and a larger education budget. He was endorsed by former President Barack Obama.
Tom Murt, Republican (incumbent)
Incumbent Murt is one of the last moderate Republicans in an increasingly polarized state House. Maybe that’s why he’s been able to handily defeat Democratic challengers in the past. The Intelligencer cited Murt’s support of a ban on assault weapons and an independent redistricting commission in its endorsement.
Mike Doyle, Democrat
A 40-year-old realtor who lives in Parkwood, Doyle was the target of mailers that highlighted his arrests for protesting an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act repeal and the GOP tax bill. Doyle, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, supports Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and banning fracking. He has been open about his past struggles with alcoholism that led to a DUI arrest. Doyle was endorsed by Obama.
Martina White, Republican (incumbent)
Incumbent White has won two elections in her majority-Democrat district. As member of the House, she’s introduced legislation that would punish cities with “sanctuary” immigration policies like Philadelphia and shield the names of officers involved in shootings. For this election, however, her campaign site is highlighting bread-and-butter issues like lower taxes and better schools.
Joe Hohenstein, Democrat
Hohenstein is once again making a run at his home district by touting his support for unions, a higher minimum wage, and abortion access. His opponents have used his work as an immigration attorney to make the misleading claim he has a “record of defending accused terrorists.” Hohenstein was endorsed by Obama and the late state Rep. Mike O’Brien.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski, Republican
Despite its Democrat majority, the 177th has been represented by moderate Republican John Taylor for three decades. Kozlowski is hoping to keep that going. A former Democratic aide, Kozlowski made headlines for calling some people with addiction “junkies” then defending that choice. Like Hohenstein, she is against safe injection sites and in favor of a tax on online sports betting to increase recovery funding.
Connect with Kozlowski: Facebook
Malcolm Kenyatta, Democrat
A North Philly native, Kenyatta has long been an advocate for his corner of the city. He supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, universal health care, and automatic voter registration at 18. If elected, which seems likely in this Democrat-heavy district, Kenyatta would be the first openly gay person of color to serve in the General Assembly.
Milton Street, Republican
Milton Street is a name recognizable to any long-time politics watcher in Philly. He served in the state House as a Democrat and the state Senate as a Democrat who turned Republican, went to jail for tax reasons, and ran for mayor a few times but didn’t win like his younger brother. He’s considered a long shot for many reasons, which is maybe why he’s calling out his state senator nephew on Facebook for not supporting him.
Connect with Street: Facebook
Brian Sims, Democrat (incumbent)
Incumbent Sims is perhaps the loudest of the outspoken progressives in the state House. He’s openly gay, non-religious, and a foe of Harrisburg’s “biggest bigot” Daryl Metcalfe. Sims is also the subject of a State Ethics Commission investigation into his travel reimbursements and speaking fees; he’s called the probe a “hit job.”
James McDevitt, Independent
McDevitt’s candidacy was a surprise to many — including Sims. He’s an openly gay financial adviser who supports universal healthcare, legalizing marijuana, and open primaries. McDevitt told Billy Penn he’s running because he claims Sims is more focused on national notoriety, rather than local issues.
Pam DeLissio, Democrat (incumbent)
Sean Stevens, Republican
Stevens lost to DeLissio in the Democratic primary in 2016. He is now running as a Republican to “move past the status quo of Democratic rule.” Stevens supports repealing Philadelphia’s soda tax through preemption legislation.
Connect with Stevens: Facebook
Matt Baltsar, Libertarian
Technology consultant Baltsar is running on a platform of legal marijuana, an independent redistricting commission, and property tax reform. He’s faulted Stevens for switching his registration from Democrat to Republican.