Election 2019

New faces set to join Philly City Council as Democratic machine takes at-large races

The party’s endorsed candidates beat out a huge field of contenders.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Correction appended

Philadelphia City Council looks like it will get two new faces next year. The slate of five Democratic party-endorsed candidates held a decisive lead with 96 percent of votes tallied, according to unofficial returns.

Democratic voters in Tuesday’s municipal primary were able to cast ballots for five of 28 City Council at-large candidates. The top five vote-getters will now go on to represent the Dems in November’s general election, where the city’s voter registration makeup gives them the clear edge for victory.

As of 11 p.m., the Democratic nominees appear to be:

  • Incumbent Councilwoman Helen Gym, with over 104,000 votes (15 percent)
  • Incumbent Councilman Allan Domb, with over 65,000 votes (10 percent)
  • Incumbent Councilman Derek Green, with over 59,000 votes, (9 percent)
  • Isaiah Thomas, with over 62,000 votes, (9 percent)
  • Katherine Gilmore Richardson, with over 44,000 votes, (7 percent)

Helen Gym

At-large Councilwoman Helen Gym is sailing toward her second term with 15 percent of the vote citywide — a much larger number of votes than any of her Democratic rivals in the race.

Gym spearheaded the city’s Fair Workweek legislation in her first term, and earned clout as a champion for progressive social justice reforms. Before her political career got started, she was an activist who focused primarily on improving the city’s stock of public schools.

In her bid for reelection, Gym earned support from Mayor Kenney, the Democratic City Committee, and unions like AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the Local 98 electricians union, whose leaders are under federal indictment. She’s said in her second term she’ll work to end the tax abatement and get more funding for public schools.

Allan Domb

“Condo King” Allan Domb is en route to his second term as well, after spending his first cracking down on property tax deadbeats and pushing for more fiscal oversight into city funds. He was endorsed this time around by the Democratic City Committee and Philly 3.0 — but he got cut from the Inquirer’s list. On the campaign trail, the millionaire took heat from critics who say his real estate industry ties present a huge conflict of interest, especially when it comes to development policies like the controversial 10-year tax abatement.

Derek Green

Reelected by voters, Derek Green wants to reduce poverty, improve the city’s education system and promote criminal justice reform in his second term. First elected in 2015, Green passed zoning regulations to pave the way for medical marijuana dispensaries and pushed for sanctions against businesses with discriminatory practices. During his campaign, he got the stamp of approval from Mayor Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke and several labor unions.

Isaiah Thomas

Third time’s the charm, folks. It took Isaiah Thomas three attempts at a seat on City Council to finally get the nod from Democratic voters. He finished in fourth place, per unofficial tallies on Tuesday night. The 34-year-old educator and former City Controller staffer won support from powerful unions and Philly’s Democratic Party. Moving forward, his goals include fixing city schools, increasing jobs and developing a “youth agenda” to keep kids out of trouble.

Katherine Gilmore Richardson

A fresh face as a legislator, sure, but Gilmore Richardson has worked in City Hall for a decade already — most recently as the chief of staff to outgoing Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. Crowned as the natural successor to her boss, the 35-year-old won the city Democratic party’s coveted endorsement in this race. Three of her policy proposals going forward: increase support for Philly’s “middle neighborhoods,” implement mandatory conflict resolution training in Philly schools and fully fund the Community College of Philadelphia.

The Republican nominees

On the Republican ticket, five candidates advanced from a seven-person pool. Dan Tinney, a building trades union-backed steamfitter from Northeast Philly, came in first with 21 percent of the Republican vote. Councilman Al Taubenberger and candidate  Matt Wolfe both held 19 percent, followed by business owner Bill Heeney at 18 percent. Despite a party effort to unseat him, Councilman David Oh finished fifth in the race with 10 percent of the vote.

What happens in November

Voters must fill seven at-large seats in the November election. They’ll go to the seven highest vote-getters — with the caveat that two of the seats are reserved for a minority political party.

The reality of the city’s voter registration edge — Democrats outnumber Republican 7-to-1 in Philadelphia — means all five Democratic nominees are virtually guaranteed to garner the most votes in November.

The two top-voted minority party candidates, whether Republican or Independent, will claim the remaining two posts.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2019 stories.

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