Philadelphia Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez on Tuesday morning announced she is resigning her seat and officially declaring a run for mayor.
“I am a candidate for mayor, the first official candidate in the historic election,” Quiñones Sánchez told WHYY news.
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The four-term city lawmaker has been seen as a likely mayoral candidate for years. Since late spring, political observers had been predicting she’d be first to resign to run. Allan Domb beat her to it, stepping down from Council in mid-August. Quiñones Sánchez’s twitter reaction to Domb’s resignation made clear she’d be happy to keep working together — but not with him as mayor.
Councilmember Derek Green is also announcing his resignation and intent to run, according to The Inquirer.
Quiñones Sánchez, who represented District 7, was Philly’s first Latina legislator. If elected mayor, she would be the first woman to have the job — as would any of several women expected to enter the race.
Philly Mag even went so far as to label Quiñones Sánchez “The Next Mayor?,” in its latest list of most influential Philadelphians. She may not have the campaign cash or history of party backing some of her likely opponents do, but over the past decade and a half, that hasn’t stopped her.
Here’s what to know about Quiñones Sánchez.
A longtime public servant, but never a party darling
Quiñones Sánchez has been councilmember for 14 years, having won election four times. She represents District 7, which includes parts of lower Northeast Philly and North Philadelphia around Kensington.
Before getting elected to Council, she was a leader of education nonprofit ASPIRA — she’s been involved in the organization since she was in high school — and helped found the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School in North Philadelphia, the city’s first bilingual charter school.
She got her start in city politics working for Marian Tasco, who served seven terms in City Council and was a leader of the Northwest Coalition, a prominent and powerful organization in city Democratic politics. Fellow Philly councilmembers and rumored mayoral hopefuls Cherelle Parker and Derek Green also worked for Tasco early in their careers.
From Tasco’s office, Quiñones Sánchez moved on to work in the Office of City Commissioners. Later she took a job working for Angel Ortiz, the first Latino city councilmember.
She first ran for a Council seat in 1999, and lost. Eight years later, in 2007, she defeated incumbent Daniel Savage (who she would go on to beat again in 2011) and took control of the city’s seventh district.
In that first win, and every reelection since, Quiñones Sánchez did not have the backing of ward leaders in her district. The Democratic party endorsed Savage both times he ran against her, supported Manny Morales in 2015, and state Rep. Angel Cruz in 2019.
Tasco, a formidable influence in the city party, told Philadelphia magazine in 2016 she and Quiñones Sánchez clashed in their approaches to getting party support. “I don’t agree with her politics. I’ve tried to say, ‘Don’t be so hard in establishing I’m not going to go there. Because you may have to go there,'” Tasco said at the time.
A self-described ‘pragmatic progressive’
Quiñones Sánchez, 53, has lived in Philadelphia nearly her entire life.
After moving to the city as a baby from Puerto Rico, she lived with her family in public housing on Spring Garden Street. Her mother, a factory worker at the time, saved up for a house, and eventually bought one in North Philly’s Hunting Park neighborhood, in the early 70s.
As a legislator, Quiñones Sánchez has backed property tax reforms and affordable housing efforts meant to help people stay in their homes. She helped create the Philadelphia Land Bank, which came under scrutiny a few years after its establishment in 2013, amid revelations the city was allowing politically connected buyers to underpay for land. Quiñones-Sánchez followed up by introducing legislation meant to increase oversight and transparency of the entity.
On Council, she has chaired the education and appropriations committees.
A self-described “pragmatic progressive,” Quiñones Sánchez has gotten behind small business-friendly policies.
She has been a proponent of business tax reform and an outspoken critic of the Philadelphia soda tax, which she has said disproportionately burdens working-class people with lower incomes.
Late last year, the councilmember opened up about her experience fighting breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy in August, followed by preventive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, all while continuing her duties on City Council. She kept her diagnosis quiet at first, but later chose to share it in hopes it would motivate other women to get regular screenings.
The Friends of Maria campaign committee started 2022 with $182k cash on hand, according to public records. That’s the most recent campaign finance info available.
That puts Quiñones Sánchez slightly behind most of the other likely mayoral candidates who were her colleagues on council (Green, Parker, Helen Gym and Allan Domb), who netted between $207k and $328k last year. Controller Rebecca Rhynhart had over $700k on hand after winning reelection in 2021.