Election 2019

$250k in outside money to help Working Families Party gain seats on Philly City Council

The spend is basically unprecedented for a third-party candidate in Philadelphia.

Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks at a City Hall rally earlier this year

Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks at a City Hall rally earlier this year

Michael D'Onofrio / Philadelphia Tribune
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The national Working Families Party has spent more than $247,000 to boost two candidates running for Philadelphia City Council, according to campaign finance records for the party’s independent expenditure arm.

The six-figure spend will exceed $300,000 in the final week leading up to the Nov. 5 election, a source within the party told Billy Penn.

The spend comes after record-breaking fundraising from Kendra Brooks, the Nicetown activist and community organizer running on the Working Families ticket. Her campaign has raised over $213,000 to date, records show — far surpassing previous record the independent at-large candidate at $139,000. O’Rourke’s campaign has now surpassed that previous record, too, bringing in over $145,000.

Asked about the expenditures, Joe Dinkin, who oversees the national WFP’s independent expenditure committee, said the national party is “proud to help add some firepower” to Brooks’ and O’Rourke’s campaigns.

This kind of boost is nearly unheard of outside the city’s two major political parties.

Observers could not recall another time an independent expenditure committee deigned to throw such money at a third-party candidate for City Council. Andrew Stober, who ran unsuccessfully for Council as an independent in 2015, said that amount of cash could be a gamechanger.

“It is totally unprecedented,” Stober said. “Getting elected as an independent is a numbers game, and this is going to help them reach more voters than anyone else on the ticket.”

There are seven at-large seats up for grabs on the Nov. 5 election. The city’s voter registration disparity means five of those seats will likely go to the five Democratic nominees. The other two seats are reserved for candidates from a minority-party — and have long been the fiefdom of Republicans.

GOP Councilmembers David Oh and Al Taubenberger are defending their seats against Brooks and O’Rourke — in addition to three other Republicans and a handful of other independent and third-party candidates.

Independent expenditure committees, by law, can not coordinate with the campaigns they are trying to help. Finance reports show that the WFP money so far has been spent on voter outreach, communications and events. Last week the committee dropped $37,160 on door-to-door canvassing in support of the WFP duo in Philly, records show.

That’s on top of the local campaigns’ own spending. The Brooks campaign has about $160,000 still sitting in its account as of its latest finance report — and it will likely be mostly spent before the election.

“We’re going to go towards the Nov. 5 election with a really strong get out the vote operation in place,” Arielle Klagsbrun, campaign manager for Brooks, told Billy Penn.

Klagsbrun confirmed to Billy Penn that Brooks will be using her campaign’s remaining cash on hand to place local television buys for the last week of the campaign.

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