Election 2019

District Council primary: West Philly stunner, Kensington nailbiter, South Philly slam

Looks like newcomer Jamie Gauthier upset powerful six-term Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.

Jamie Gauthier

Jamie Gauthier

Emma Lee / WHYY

A massive upset in West Philadelphia. A nailbiter in North Philly’s Latino strongholds. A swift defeat in rapidly gentrifying South Philly.

Voters delivered all that and more in City Council’s contested district races.

45-year political dynasty comes to an end in West Philly

In a huge upset over one of the biggest political dynasties in Philly politics, former Fairmount Park Conservancy director Jamie Gauthier appears to have unseated veteran Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell to secure the Demcoratic nomination in the 3rd District, ending nearly 45 years under the Blackwell reign.

Blackwell has held the seat since 1992, which was previously held by her husband, the late U.S. Rep. Lucian Blackwell.

With 96 percent of the vote tallied, the newcomer holds a commanding 54 percent of the vote, over Blackwell’s 44 percent.

A Penn urban planning alum, Gauthier has led the parks nonprofit for two years. In the past, she’s worked on sustainability, affordable housing and economic development projects. She also founded Mommy Grads, an organization that aims to help single mothers raise children while they go to college.

The contentious race kicked off with a protest at Blackwell’s 300-person campaign party. Her critics alleged that Blackwell was too cozy with developers in her gentrifying district — a claim hammered home by Philly 3.0, an independent PAC that made huge contributions behind Gautier.

Blackwell didn’t concede the race on Tuesday night, per an Inquirer report. She left her watch party telling supporters: “See ya, everybody. See ya. Thanks, everybody.” When a reporter asked whether she had anything to say, she responded, “No, I’m going home.”

With no Republican challenger in District 3, Gauthier so far has no opponents in the November general election.

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez declares victory in close 7th District, Cruz does not concede

In a nailbiter of a race, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez appears to have survived the fourth attempt of Democratic party leaders to unseat her from North Philadelphia’s 7th District.

With 95 percent of votes tallied, unofficial returns show the three-term councilwoman with 52 percent of the voters, just ahead of state Rep. Angel Cruz at 48 percent of the vote.

Cruz has represented the Latino strongholds of Philadelphia for more than 20 years in Harrisburg. He and the councilwoman have long battled with each other, and their feud is as personal as it is political. Despite attempts to work together in their overlapping communities, moments of peace have been rare, and this election season has been particularly acrimonious.

With this victory, Quiñones-Sánchez shows she has firm power in her Riverwards district, she told a roomful of supporters at a Latin nightclub in Juniata Park.

“When people say that the party is not with me, that is not true. Because the people are the party,” she said.

Speaking at his own gathering, Cruz said he was going to make sure every vote gets counted. The margin in the low-turnout contest is hovering around 500 votes, and a few hundred absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

“This is not conceding,” Cruz said Tuesday night. “Let’s see what happens when everything’s finished and counted.”

The ‘house’ takes the rest

Despite a wave of criticism into his use of councilmanic prerogative, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson ended the night with 60 percent of the vote in South Philly’s contested 2nd District race. His challenger, lawyer and activist Lauren Vidas, took 40 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Issues around land use and housing in the rapidly gentrifying district factored heavily into the race.

Two other district councilmembers easily vanquished their Democratic challengers.  With 96 percent of the vote counted, Councilman Mark Squilla toppled Lou Lanni in the 1st District with 81 percent of the show, and Councilman Curtis Jones finished the night with 74 percent of the vote over newcomer Ron Adams.

City Councilman Bobby Henon, despite being under federal indictment, ran unopposed in Northeast Philadelphia. There were also no declared opponents for Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker.

In the 10th, the sole Republican district Councilman Brian O’Neill secured his party’s nomination in the primary, who will face off against the unopposed Democratic nominee, Tara Moore, in the November general election. Johnson and Henon will face Republican challengers as well.

WHYY’s Aaron Moselle contributed to this report.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2019 stories.

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