Updated Nov. 5
You bet your sweet democracy there is. A general election in an off year can feel like a sleeper in a town where Democrats hold a 7-to-1 voter registration advantage.
However, some Dems have attracted feisty challengers, be they Republican, independent or third-party. So there are more than a couple competitive matchups to get acquainted with before Nov. 5 — particularly for City Council at large.
Bonus topic of interest: Philly’s controversial new voting machines are making their debut. The touchscreen models have been a source of contention all year, and this is basically considered the test run for the city ahead of 2020.
Hear any voting machine problems on Election Day? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyway, local government has more effect on your day-to-day life than almost any other elected offices, so it’s worth spending some time to find out whose fortunes you’re boosting when you push that green VOTE button. Take a look through this guide now, then bookmark it for a quick refresher on your way to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
- Everything you need to know about voting in PA on Nov. 5
- Philly ballot questions for the 2019 general election
- How Philly is making all voting locations accessible for the first time ever
Find out what ward, division and district you’re in below, then scroll down for more or use these links to jump to the various sections.
- City Council at-large
- City Council district races
- City Commissioners
- Register of Wills
- Judge races
- Ballot questions
Your polling place
Are you registered? You can find your voter status here. Where do you vote? Find that here. This will also have info about what ward and division you’re in. You can enter your address here to find all of your district and representation info.
The mayor’s race hasn’t been too exciting this time around. An incumbent has not lost reelection to a second term since the city’s charter was updated in 1954, and Mayor Jim Kenney coasted to an easy victory in the primary. He hasn’t done much campaigning since — and has ignored calls to debate his Republican opponent.
Jim Kenney (Incumbent, Democrat)
The former city councilman from South Philly was elected in 2015 on a platform to reinvest in the city’s neighborhoods. The signature achievement of his first term? No doubt the 1.5-cent-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax, aka soda tax, to fund programs like universal pre-K, community schools, and improvements to neighborhood parks and rec centers. Kenney’s re-election bid has become something of a referendum on the tax. Philadelphians largely support the programs, but still bemoan the levy itself, polls show. Kenney also contends with a climbing homicide rate and a ever-raging opioid crisis.
While Kenny has avoided a major scandal in his first term, opponents have zeroed in on his ties to indicted union leader John “Johnny Doc” Doughterty. He’s also faced criticism for falling out of touch with Black Philadelphians, who helped elect him in 2015. Despite a primary no one expected him to lose, Kenney spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year to solidify support — in addition to nearly $1 million put up by the building trades unions and other groups.
- Keep soda tax alive
- Support overdose prevention site
- Maintain Philly as a “sanctuary city”
Billy Ciangalini (Republican)
Defense attorney Billy Ciangalini became the sole Republican candidate for mayor after a bitter intra-party feud. Ciancaglini’s platform is essentially running against Kenney’s three big agenda items. Ciangalini has used his personal-turned-campaign Facebook account to rail against the soda tax and overdose prevention sites. He also used it to incite his followers to harass a South Philly restaurant that threw a fundraiser for undocumented immigrants. Even as Kenney’s sole opponent, Ciangalini hasn’t raised nearly enough money to mount a serious campaign. He brought in just over $10,000 in contributions since his run was launched.
- Reverse Philly’s “sanctuary city” status
- Oppose overdose prevention sites
- Repeal soda tax
Council at Large
There are seven open at-large seats on Council — but you only get to vote for up to five. Two of the seven seats, by law, must be reserved for a minority party. These days, that means Republicans, independents or third-party candidates. Republicans have typically held these seats, but the status quo has potential to be upset this year.
Helen Gym (Incumbent, Democrat)
Incumbent Helen Gym is wrapping up her first term as an at-large councilmember. First elected in 2015, she’s become known as a champion for social justice issues, from spearheading the city’s Fair Workweek legislation to weighing in on national issues like the R. Kelly ban. Before her political career, she was an activist who focused primarily on improving the city’s stock of public schools.
For what it’s worth, Gym performed really well in the primary. She finished first in the uber-crowded race with 16 percent of the vote — that’s nearly 40% more votes that her closest competitor. The last time an at-large Council candidate did this well, they went on to become mayor.
Allan Domb (Incumbent, Democrat)
In his first term on Council, Domb has cracked down on property tax deadbeats and pushed for more fiscal oversight into city funds. The “Condo King” donates his entire Council salary to the School District each year — and may have been thinking about running for mayor. But the millionaire has earned critics who say his real estate industry ties are a huge conflict of interest, especially when it comes to development policies like the controversial 10-year tax abatement.
Derek S. Green (Incumbent, Democrat)
Going for his second term, Green’s main goals include reducing poverty, improving the city’s education, and promoting criminal justice reform. In his first term, he gained a reputation as a champion for small business. He’s passed zoning regulations to pave the way for medical marijuana dispensaries and pushed for sanctions against businesses with discriminatory practices.
More recently, Green instigated a change to City Council language. Legislators now go by the gender-neutral term Councilmember — instead of Councilman or Councilwoman. Philly voters endorsed that idea in a ballot question in the May primary.
Isaiah Thomas (Democrat)
This is Thomas’ third run for City Council. The 34-year-old educator and former City Controller staffer has won support from the powerful unions as well as the city’s Democratic party. His platform focuses on fixing the schools, job growth and a “youth agenda” for engaging kids and keeping them out of trouble.
Katherine Gilmore Richardson (Democrat)
Gilmore Richardson is a decade-plus City Hall veteran who until recently served as 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. Her policy proposals include increasing support for Philly’s “middle neighborhoods“; implementing mandatory conflict resolution training in Philly schools; and fully funding the Community College of Philadelphia.
David Oh (Incumbent, Republican)
Minority Whip David Oh has two terms under his belt. But his seat appears at risk after coming in last in the primary. Oh’s legislative legacy so far includes toughening Philly’s anti-squatting laws and officially apologizing to the Chinese ambassador to the United States when a drunk guy stole the thumb off a Terracotta warrior statue. Recently, he said he wanted City Hall to take over control of the PPA.
Oh opposes many current Philadelphia policies, including the soda tax, Fair Workweek legislation, marijuana decriminalization, overdose prevention sites and generally everything about District Attorney Larry Krasner. Oh created a firestorm recently with a post about transgender healthcare. He also raised eyebrows for his interest in children being separated from their parents — months after he was investigated by DHS for breaking his son’s collar bone during martial arts practice.
Al Taubenberger (Incumbent, Republican)
Prior to joining Council in 2016, Taubenberger was the longtime president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. In his first term, he’s joined nearly a dozen committees — more than any other member of Council, his website boasts. A few weeks ago, he introduced a timely raft of bills to provide tax breaks to many Philadelphia families, although it’s unclear if any have a chance at passing.
Taubenberger finished in second place behind Tinney in the May primary. His adversaries in both the Democrat and Republican parties have hounded him over his ties to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, where he holds a board post.
Dan Tinney (Republican)
This Northeast Philly native has been a perceived frontrunner in the race since finishing first place among a crowded Republican field in the May primary. Tinney, a self-described “pro-union Republican,” has garnered handsome support from local labor groups and the local police union. He has been vocal against new tax proposals, most recently promising to fight the proposed “congestion tax” for driving in Center City.
Matt Wolfe (Republican)
Wolfe, who also ran in 2015, touts a “common sense” platform that includes proposals to end the city’s sanctuary city status and stop plans for overdose prevention sites. The 63-year-old Penn grad has also taken shots at labor leader Johnny Doc and Councilman Bobby Henon in the wake of their federal indictments.
Bill Heeney (Republican)
A Torresdale resident, businessman and ward leader, Heeney announced his candidacy back in November at the FOP Lodge #5. Shortly after, Billy Penn obtained screenshots of his Facebook account, which had shared memes mocking Black Lives Matter protesters, deriding Section 8 housing, and degrading women. Henney has been a vocal critic of District Attorney Larry Krasner’s criminal justice reforms and Mayor Jim Kenney’s policies.
Maj Toure (Libertarian)
A self-described “solutionary Libertarian,” Maj Toure wants to legalize marijuana and reform Philly’s schools and prisons. Some of his ideas: create a supply fund for School District teachers, eliminate the use of solitary confinement in jails and reevaluate the penalties for drug possession. On his website, the Black Guns Matter founder says he wants to replace the “FAKE, low vibration” politicians currently on City Council.
Kendra Brooks (Working Families Party)
Kendra Brooks’ campaign has garnered more attention than any of her immediate challengers — partly because she raised more money than any third-party candidate in history. The Nicetown resident and community organizer bid has appealed to big names in the Democratic party, causing a minor firestorm after some pols broke party lines to endorse her candidacy. Brooks and her Working Families Party running mate Nicolas O’Rourke say they’re in the race to oust Republicans from the city’s legislative body and add more progressive voices to the caucus. As for her platform, she says she’ll push for affordable housing for all and back a Green New Deal-like proposal in the city.
Nicholas O’Rourke (Working Families Party)
O’Rourke is a pastor and community activist from Philadelphia who is running alongside Kendra Brooks on the WFP ticket. His campaign has not garnered the same enthusiasm as his running mate’s, but he nonetheless preaches onsimilar policies, including pushing for more affordable housing protections. O’Rourke also supports ending so-called “stop and frisk” policing and adding more funding the Police Advisory Commission, a watchdog group within the mayor’s office.
Sherrie Cohen (A Better Council)
Tenant rights attorney Sherrie Cohen is no stranger to Council chambers. She’s long advocated for LGBTQ rights in front of the legislative body — joining the radical lesbian group DYKETACTICS in 1975 to protest the impending denial of Bill 1275, which would have outlawed anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Now Cohen wants to rep LGBTQ people as a legislator herself. She’s prioritized instituting a $15 minimum wage, more affordable housing and a Green New Deal in Philly.
Clarc King (Independent)
Little is known about this at-large independent candidate, aside from the fact that he’s posts generally confusing sentiments on Facebook — see the “mainstream media coup” and the “millennials have no assets” posts — and he used the same pixelated selfie for his profile picture and cover photo. During public appearances, he frequently criticizes the private sector’s encroachment on the local government.
Steve Cherniavsky (Term Limits Philadelphia)
A first-generation American, Steve Cherniavsky is a Rutgers University alum with a degree in mechanical engineering. The last decade or so, he’s worked as a project manager for various companies — mostly in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s running for an at-large Council seat with promises of instituting term limits for legislators, improving trash pickup and street maintenance and securing fair scheduling for Philly’s service workers.
Joe Cox (Independent)
Cox is a self-described progressive independent. His electric pink hair stands out in weekly City Council sessions that he regularly attends — he at one point claimed that he attends more sessions than many incumbents. Working as a bike messenger for years, Cox’s proposals focus on increasing street safety for cyclists, pedestrians and people who are disabled.
District City Council
You can only vote for one candidate. Don’t know which district you’re in? Plug in your address here.
Mark F Squilla (Incumbent, Democrat)
Mark Squilla’s been repping District 1 along the Delaware River for two terms now, during which time he’s pushed legislation to raise the city’s minimum wage and better preserve Philadelphia’s stock of historic properties. He is known to be persistent, as evidenced by his decade-long campaign to ban or impose a fee for plastic bags in the city. Squilla has found himself in the middle of the debate about overdose prevention sites. In March, he decided he was against them. Separately, been down to swim in a shirt and tie and dress up as Santa.
Daniel Orsino (Republican)
Originally from Jersey, Daniel “Duke” Orsino brands himself as “a millennial guy who cares about his community.” The Republican candidate lives in South Philly and hopes to be the first openly gay man to hold a Council seat. A few of Orsino’s goals: getting rid of the soda tax, creating an educational program to encourage small business ownership in his district and eliminating the wage tax for people who make less than $50k per year. (Current at-large Councilmember Domb recently introduced a bill to that effect.)
Kenyatta Johnson (Incumbent, Democrat)
First elected in 2011, Kenyatta Johnson has been at the helm of his South Philly district for two terms. He’s a supporter of the soda tax and of reforming the tax abatement program, which he says benefits newcomers at the expense of longtime residents. Johnson recently helped write a letter to Mayor Jim Kenney asking for more Free Library funding. Also, he’s not a big fan of protected bike lanes.
The South Philadelphia lifer has come under fire for controversial land sales. He flipped a couple city-owned lots to a close friend and developer for a fraction of the fair market value, cutting out cash that might have gone to the city. Johnson’s currently under federal investigation — and taxpayers are footing the bill for his legal representation.
Michael Bradley (Republican)
Bradley’s campaign is a bit mysterious — his presence in the race has been pretty low-key. What we do know: the Republican candidate is a ward leader in Grays Ferry. He’s come out swinging against some local news outlets, accusing them of introducing bias in favor of certain candidates in their reporting. Bradley’s Council bid is notably low budget. Around the time of the May primary, his campaign account had a total of $30.
Jamie Gauthier (Democrat)
Running unopposed for the District 3 seat is political novice Jamie Gauthier. The Penn urban planning alum is the former executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, which supports Philly’s park system. In the past, Gauthier’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.
In the May primary, Gauthier delivered a stunning defeat to Councilmember Jannie Blackwell, ousting Council’s longest-serving member from a seat her family held for 45 years.
Curtis Jones Jr. (Incumbent, Democrat)
Curtis Jones is now in his third term representing the Northwest Philly district. While in office, he’s introduced bills on criminal justice reform measures, like the ban the box proposal, which passed in 2015 and prohibits employers from reviewing an applicant’s criminal history going back more than seven years.
More recently, Jones has sponsored legislation to give tenants more rights in eviction cases. He also raved when Starbucks decided to open a community store in Parkside. He hasn’t avoided drama entirely — an entire apartment complex got evicted in his district, and Manayunk neighbors directed anger at him when someone wanted to build an apartment complex without adequate parking.
Matt Baltsar (Libertarian)
Baltsar is relatively new to politics. Chair of Philly’s Libertarian Party, he spent the last 14 years working as an IT consultant, before mounting a campaign for a Pa. House seat against fifth-term incumbent Rep. Pamela DeLissio. He lost with less than 3% of the vote. Now he’s vying to rep West Philly — although his Facebook page still advertises the state House run. Baltsar says he wants to infuse a new perspective into the city, consistently repped mostly by Democrats.
Baltsar almost got knocked off the ballot in August due to a potential error with his petition signatures, but was reinstated.
Karla Cruel (Independent)
West Philly native Karla Cruel describes herself as an attorney, an educator and “community servant.” She’s raised more than $17,000 in her bid for the District 4 seat on the premise that she’d improve access to healthy food, better care for veterans and eradicate poverty. She said she also hopes to increase transparency in city government by archiving Council meetings online and hosting more events in Philly neighborhoods.
Darrell L. Clarke (Incumbent, Democrat)
District 5 residents don’t have much of a choice this time around. Two-decade incumbent Darrell Clarke, who serves as council president, is running unopposed. Recently, he’s put his weight behind bills that would ease regulations for car-share companies and bring traffic cops to the city. He’s gotten some criticism for suggesting Philadelphia be more flexible on its “sanctuary city” status and for some sketchy land sales of his own.
Bobby Henon (Incumbent, Democrat)
Despite being hit with a blistering federal indictment early this year, Henon ran unopposed in the May primary. But the corruption charges have not hurt Henon’s support as he faces off against an underfunded Republican challenger. Henon, who has denied all wrongdoing in the Local 98 probe, has continued to push legislation related to the building trades and tout his constituent services in his Northeast Philly district.
Pete Smith (Republican)
Smith, a 52-year-old community leader, served until recently as the president of the Tacony Civic Association. He has been critical of Kenney’s soda tax and of rising real estate taxes. He’s running unopposed on the Republican ticket, which means he’s slated to face off in the November general election against Henon.
Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (Incumbent, Democrat)
Despite criticism that MQS is an unwilling collaborator, the three-term lawmaker has ushered in legislation to help set up the Philadelphia Land Bank as well as an affordable repayment program for residents who fall behind on their bills. Quiñones-Sánchez ran for the third time this year without support from the local Democratic party, thanks to an ongoing feud with ward leaders in her predominantly Latino district. She secured a slim-margin victory over state Rep. Angel Cruz in the May primary, and now runs unopposed in the general election.
Cindy Bass (Incumbent, Democrat)
Incumbent Cindy Bass ran unopposed in the Democratic primary after a challenger was tossed off the ballot for incorrectly filing paperwork. Bass touts bringing quality-of-life improvements to her district, like increased regulation of clothing donation bins. She also put forth the controversial “stop and go” bill in 2017 and has come under fire from residents in recent months over the sale of the Germantown High School building to a no-show developer. Bass holds a powerful ward leader post in her district, but has drawn opposition from her own committee people.
Greg Paulmier (Independent)
This is the fourth City Council attempt for Germantown resident Greg Paulmier, who has also served as a ward leader and worked with Habitat for Humanity. The perennial candidate says he wants more transparency from city government, and will be a stronger voice for the Northwest district in the legislative body.
Cherelle L. Parker (Incumbent, Democrat)
Former state representative Cherelle Parker will likely coast to a second term without much fanfare. Parker came to power as the protege of former City Councilmember Marian Tasco. In her first term, Parker passed legislation to put a minimum wage question on the ballot this year, and has also pushed for safety improvements like speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. Parker does hold a second job, an advisory post with Independence Blue Cross.
Judy Moore (Democrat)
An executive with restaurant company Garces Group, Judy Moore is running on increased support for police officers, public schools and helping people struggling with addiction. The 40-year-old Northeast Philly native has a 2-to-1 Democratic voter edge in her district. She has picked up the endorsement of influential political group Philadelphia 3.0, which helped unseat veteran Councilmember Jannie Blackwell in the May primary. One of Moore’s ex-consultants sued her over the summer for failing to pay nearly $10,000.
Brian O’Neill (Incumbent, Republican)
The longest serving legislator on Council, Brian O’Neill has been in office since 1980 and is running for his 11th term. An attorney, he has long held a second job as an advisor at Fox Rothschild. He prides himself on constituent services, with four satellite offices for residents to reach him in the far Northeast. O’Neill has also earned a reputation as a vigilant steward of his district’s real estate, even drawing ire from some who say he interferes too much with development. He’s currently the only Republican district councilmember, holding power for decades despite the 2-to-1 Democratic voter edge in his district.
You can only vote for two of these candidates, but there are three positions, so all three are basically getting in. The law states there must be one commissioner from the minority party. What do they do? Just oversee all elections and voter registration for all of Philadelphia.
Lisa Deeley (Incumbent, Democrat)
Lisa Deeley has spent a career in politics, from the Pa. House to City Council to her current gig as chairwoman of the City Commissioners. She touts a long list of election reforms efforts pushed through during her last term. She also recently had her notary license taken away because she approved signatures on two death benefit documents without asking for identification.
Al Schmidt (Incumbent, Republican)
Schmidt is the sole Republican on the ballot for commissioner this year, which means he’s guaranteed to retain his seat on the bipartisan board. First elected in 2011, Schmidt has a knack for using social media to help keep voters engaged by sharing turnout numbers and other interesting election data throughout the year.
Omar Sabir (Democrat)
A longtime community and political activist who was elected a traffic court judge right before the court was abolished in 2013, Omar Sabir says he hops to ensure that all voting places are accessible, well equipped and well staffed. Born and raised in West Philadelphia, his future goal for the city is to increase overall voter turnout.
Register of Wills
Tracey Gordon (Democrat)
Tracey Gordon’s advance to the general election was a surprise. She defeated longtime incumbent Ronald Donatucci, an old-guard player in the city’s Democratic party who held this office since 1979.
A longtime community organizer, Gordon is a perennial candidate who has previously run for a seat on Council, city commissioner and state rep. As a candidate for the Register of Wills, she has proposed immediately abolishing the onerous probate filing fee, as well as trying to reduce the number of “tangled titles” and fraudulent estates. She also wants to do more office outreach so help families learn about their estate options before a death occurs.
Rochelle Bilal (Democrat)
Rochelle Bilal knocked out Sheriff Jewell Williams in the May primary after his re-election campaign was dogged by multiple workplace sexual harassment allegations, one of which ended in $127,000 taxpayer funded settlement.
A former police officer and president of the Guardian Civic League, Bilal concentrated her campaign on the office’s real estate wing, calling to reduce the number of properties that go to sheriff’s sale and instead help homeowners keep their properties. She has the support of District Attorney Larry Krasner. If elected, she’ll be the first black female sheriff in the department’s history.
Judge of the Superior Court
There are two Democrats and two Republicans running in this statewide race.
Amanda Green-Hawkins (Democrat) = NOT recommended by the bar
Daniel D. McCaffery (Democrat) = HIGHLY recommended by the bar
Meghan McCarthy King (Republican) = RECOMMENDED by the bar
Christy Lee Peck (Republican) = RECOMMENDED by the bar
Court of Common Pleas
There are seven candidates, and you can choose up to seven. So yeah.
Jennifer Schultz (Democrat = Recommended by the bar
James C Crumlish (Democrat) = HIGHLY recommended by the bar
Anthony Kyriakakis (Democrat) = HIGHLY recommended by the bar
Carmella Jacquinto (Democrat) = Recommended by the bar
Tiffany Palmer (Democrat) = HIGHLY recommended by the bar
Crystal B Powell (Democrat) = NOT recommended by the bar
Joshua Roberts = Recommended by the bar
Judge of the Municipal Court
Vote for one. This one?
David H Conroy (Democrat) = Recommended by the bar