The signatures of seven Democratic primary candidates for Philadelphia mayor, via their candidate affidavits. (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

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From helping to detect forgeries to being a tool for therapy, a signature is sometimes worth a thousand words. What can it tell us about Philadelphia’s crowded mayoral race?

For South Philly resident Jo Coppola, signatures are the “face we show the world.” She’s a certified graphologist, a field of study that analyzes the physical attributes of signatures to identify the writer’s character, and state of mind at the time of the signing. 

Coppola has it as a tool to help people in recovery from heroin addiction and to better understand her students as a substitute teacher. Other practical applications include helping students overcome school struggles, solving cases of potential forgery, and directing people toward suitable career paths.

Billy Penn asked Coppola to see what each Democratic mayoral candidate’s signature shows about their strengths, goals, and identities.

You can’t tell concrete policy positions from autographs, obviously, so she wouldn’t be able to say if a candidate wants to stop the soda tax or create a municipal bank just based on their signature. And there have been plenty of studies showing graphology isn’t necessarily a good predictor of personality — it’s far from an exact science. 

But it is fun to consider. When applied to the mayoral candidates, signatures can show “the exquisite strengths of these people who want to be part of a service that is highly necessary in our city,” Coppola said.

Her findings? The candidate pool is full of extroverts and big personalities — to be expected on such a stage — but there are a couple of introverts sprinkled in. 

Cherelle Parker’s signature is defined by its clarity. Jeff Brown’s is little more than a scribble. Amen Brown’s signature is a bit smaller relative to most of the others, and Helen Gym’s has a defined slant. Jimmy DeLeon’s autograph is characterized by an oversized “J,” Allan Domb’s “D” is stelling, and it’s a bit difficult to tell if the last letter of Rebecca Rhynhart’s signature is a “T” or an “A.”

Scroll down for more details about Coppola’s analysis of each signature, which was captured from each candidate’s official Philly Election Board filing for the May 16 primary ballot. 

Cherelle Parker

Cherelle Parker’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Parker’s signature is generally formed from swooping, clear letters, but it also features hooks in the “C” and the “J.” These attributes are often connected to commitment to convictions, Coppola said, pointing to a trait that has come across on the campaign trail. 

“I’m going to be Cherelle ‘Show–Me’ Parker,” Parker told 34th Street Magazine. “I’m going to fix things, and it’s going to be done in an unconventional way.”

The extra ink at the top of the “L”s in Parker’s first name is a handwriting feature that can represent quick thinking, per Coppola. “She has a full existence of living,” the graphologist said of the candidate. “There’s a fight in her.

Helen Gym

Helen Gym’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Gym’s signature has a defined rightward slant, a characteristic often connected with a quick-thinking and a “high vibration” nature, according to Coppola. The description appears fitting for a candidate who’s taken an active part in many protests, advocating for things like better public school funding or union recognition

The extra bit of ink at the top of the loop of a lowercase “L” can denote toughness and particularity, Coppola said, while the the “climbing” nature of the “H” can signal ambition and a desire to achieve

Each candidate was asked about Coppola’s assessment of their signature, and Gym was one of the few to respond.

“I try to be competent, compassionate, collaborative, and present in my work,” Gym told Billy Penn. “I’ve also been called tenacious and tough because I don’t shy away from big problems.”

Rebecca Rhynhart

Rebecca Rhynhart’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Individual letters in Rhynhart’s signature were the most pointed signs to Coppola. 

The clarity of the “R” can indicate someone who is motivated by public service, Coppola said, which rings true for the candidate who pushed for the City Controller’s Office to play a more active role in Philly government. 

Someone who makes the “T” longer on the left side is often confident about their past accomplishments, Coppola said: “Her work, her value. She already knows it.” 

Responding to Billy Penn’s questions about the signature analysis, Rhynhart said that she would describe herself as empathetic, driven, and detail-oriented. 

Allan Domb

Allan Domb’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Domb’s signature is characterized by the infinity symbol beginning at the “A” in his autograph, the backwards reaching nature of the “D,” and the upward-reaching slants at the ends of both his first and last name, Coppola said, and each has common associated traits.

The shape of the “D” reveals someone with a strong sense of family history who is also forging their own path, per Coppola, which tracks: Domb is a self-made real estate mogul who was shaped by his family’s experience with threats of eviction

Both the infinity symbol and upward-reaching slants indicate to Coppola that while Domb is cautious about the future, he’s willing to make a stake in it.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Brown’s signature starts out fairly clear, but as it continues, the legible letters fade out into a scribble, a characteristic Coppola said is often connected to a desire to look towards the future. 

The signature is relatively small, Coppola said, in a way that aligns with someone who values their privacy. However, she said, the grocery store magnate’s autograph reveals qualities of someone who is outgoing — and likes to do things for entertainment value.

Derek Green

Derek Green’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Green has a relatively small signature, a characteristic that often shows up in the handwriting of people who are soft-spoken and thoughtful, according to Coppola. 

A large first letter — in this case, the “D” — can allude to a gentle and service-oriented nature. “I see him at the library reading and talking to children,” said Coppola. 

Green has a history of advocating for Philly’s special needs children. With his son on the spectrum, he is a partner of the Philadelphia Autism Project and worked to create an autism support class at Houston Elementary School.

Amen Brown

Amen Brown’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

Brown’s signature is a bit smaller than many of the other candidates, which Coppola said is often interpreted to represent a more restrained nature. 

“He’s not loud … He’s not going to be in your face. But what he says is going to be based on him being very grounded,” Coppola said.

The sweep over the “A” in his signature could highlight protectiveness and a grounded nature, she said — something that could align with his past lived experience with food insecurity, incarceration, and gun violence. 

Jimmy DeLeon

Jimmy DeLeon’s signature (Philadelphia County Board of Elections)

The size of DeLeon’s signature — and the notably big “J” that has a larger loop at the bottom — are traits often connected with being gregarious, per Coppola.

DeLeon also appeared to use a lot of physical pressure used when the paper was signed, Coppola said. Along with the handwriting’s clarity, that can be interpreted as devotion to serving the public, she explained — and indeed, he was a municipal judge for 34 years 

 “He has paid his dues,” the graphologist said. “This man has so much energy.”

Asked about Coppola’s analysis, DeLeon wrote to Billy Penn that he aims to emphasize “empathy for people and life” in his campaign, and that he would describe himself as open, thoughtful, and caring.