Philadelphia City Council chambers. (Flickr/PHL Council)

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Update, May 19: With all divisions recorded, District 8 Councilmember Bass led challenger  Anderson-Oberman 50.7% to 49.2%, a margin of 401 votes. Late Thursday, Bass declared herself the winner. There is no vote threshold that triggers an automatic recount of a city-level race, Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio told Chestnut Hill Local.

Incumbents easily won in two of Philadelphia’s contested City Council district races in the May primary, but a third was still locked in a tight battle on Wednesday morning.

Councilmembers Quetcy Lozada in District 7 and Anthony Phillips in District 9 held onto their newly-acquired seats. Each has been in office just a few months, after winning special elections in November.

In District 8, however, three-term incumbent Cindy Bass was showing 50.5% of the vote on Wednesday morning, compared to 49.3% for union organizer Seth Anderson-Oberman — a difference of fewer than 300 votes. Nearly a fifth of precincts had not yet been tallied, according to city election results, along with some mail ballots, so the outcome was still unclear.

The district spans parts of North Philly as well as Northwest Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, Germantown, Nicetown, Tioga, and Logan neighborhoods.

In all other districts, a single candidate was running unopposed — and in all but Northeast Philly’s District 10, these primary winners likely won’t face challengers in the general election this November.

District Council seats are considered some of the most powerful government positions in Philly. That’s thanks to a tradition known as councilmanic prerogative, which holds that colleagues — including the seven at-large Council members — almost always defer to the district lawmaker on land use and other decisions for the area they represent.

In North Philly’s District 7, which covers parts of Fairhill, Kensington, Hunting Park, Feltonville, Frankford, and Juniata Park, Lozada won with 60% of the vote over challenger Andrés Celin. Lozada only recently assumed the seat after winning a special election last November to replace her former boss, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, who resigned to launch an ultimately unsuccessful mayoral campaign. 

The Northwest Philly District 9 seat left vacant when Cherelle Parker resigned to run for mayor was the target of a three-way contest, in which relatively new incumbent Phillips won 63% of the vote while challengers James Williams and Yvette Young garnered 10% and 26%, respectively. He’ll represent Burholme, East Mount Airy, West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Lawncrest, Lawndale, Olney, and Oxford Circle. 

In North Central Philly’s District 5, where Council President Darrell Clarke is stepping down after more than four decades, a write-in campaign by Robin Aluko did not manage to make a dent in the candidacy of Jeffery “Jay” Young, who garnered 94% of the vote.

Councilmember terms are four years, with no limit on the number of terms a member may serve.

District 7

At McVeigh Recreation Center in Kensington, voters seemed split between Lozada and Celin. 

Resident Roz Lopez, who arrived to vote with her daughter and granddaughter, said she feels Quinoñes-Sánchez let Kensington residents down by not addressing the open-air drug markets in the neighborhood, and she worries Lozado will continue that inaction.

“Quinoñes was present, but fell short of the follow-up, and I’m not about that,” Lopez said.

She hopes that whoever wins will say no to safe injection sites. “It continues to enable bad behavior,” she said, calling for recovery homes instead.

Lozada, 53, grew up in Hunting Park and now lives in Northwood. Her proposed “Marshall Stabilization & Recovery Plan” for Kensington, and the city, includes an increased police presence in the district. 

In contrast, Celin, a 34-year-old educator and social worker who once worked as former Council member Helen Gym’s outreach director, proposed the expansion of non-police mobile crisis units. In a series of questions from the Kensington community, both candidates stated their opposition towards supervised injection sites without community support.

Lozada describes herself as slightly more conservative than her predecessor, but still considers herself a progressive. Besides her decade as Quiñones Sánchez’s chief of staff, she has worked as director of community engagement for DA Larry Krasner and, since 2020, as vice president of community organizing and engagement at the social services provider Esperanza.

Lozada secured an easy victory in this past November’s special elections, defeating challenger Rep. Angel Cruz and winning more overall support from Democratic ward leaders than Quiñones Sánchez had over her 14-year hold on the seat. For this election, Lozada garnered endorsements from the Democratic City Committee and urbanist advocacy group 5th Square.

District 8

The race over one of Philadelphia’s most racially and economically diverse districts was expected to be a close one, and it was.

At the Stenton Park Recreation Center in Nicetown, resident Denene Dancey said she wants to see Bass continue her efforts to “uplift and protect the community,” with efforts to prevent gun violence in the neighborhood and provide better opportunities for young people. 

But for Latrise Graves, a 34-year-old mom who’s lived in the area for two years, her vote went to Anderson-Oberman in hopes that he’d be an advocate on housing issues. 

“Especially having a low income and dealing with being a single mom as well, it’s very difficult. And some of the landlords, they don’t understand that. We need someone who can help us with that a little bit more.”

Bass currently serves as Council’s deputy majority whip, and is chair of two committees: Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and Public Health and Human Services. She was previously a policy advisor to former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and an assistant to state Sen. Allyson Schwartz.

During her tenure, Bass championed quality-of-life improvement legislation, calling for security cameras to be installed at rec centers and playgrounds across the city, as well as increased regulation on clothing donation bins that often collect litter. She frequently advocated for rights of adoptive LGBT parents against exclusionary foster agencies, and for victims of racial discrimination. 

Recently, Bass came under fire for supporting legislation banning bulletproof glass protecting cashiers in corner stores, and for granting large projects to underqualified real-estate developers.

Anderson-Oberman worked with prominent unions such as AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Student Union. He also recently co-founded the Philadelphia Labor for Black Lives Coalition. Anderson-Oberman believes the city should fund crisis responders, reform the Land Bank, launch a Public Bank, and provide legal aid for people facing eviction, rent and mortgage relief.

Anderson-Oberman portrayed Bass as a neglectful councilmember, with a tenure tainted by poor leadership and failed plans to develop her district. He has said he’d like to see the district’s vacant lots used for affordable housing, and a zoning overlay requiring multifamily housing projects to include affordable housing units.

A recent debate saw Anderson-Oberman comment on the recent embezzlement charges against one of Bass’ developers, to which Bass asked if Anderson-Oberman would accept responsibility for a fatal argument-turned-shooting between two canvassers for a group that backed him.

District 9

Phillips first became a member of the Counciil following a special election just this past November to succeed Cherelle Parker. A PhD student in Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, he has worked at CCP and taught at a charter high school in Philadelphia. As a teen, he founded the mentoring program Youth Action.

Phillips has listed community policing as being his main priority. He would like to see city services become more responsive, he says, and wants to work with block captains to provide resources to his district’s neighborhoods. The beautification of the district’s business corridors is also among his stated objectives.

West Oak Lane native Yvette Young received 26% of votes. An educator and nonprofit leader who works with the Pottsgrove school district and Life Turning Point of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that provides shelter and Biblical life skills training to women and children, Young’s campaign platform focused on school improvements, substance abuse harm reduction, and building more adult centers in the community.

James Williams got 10% of the Democratic vote this time around, and previously ran for City Council at-large in 2015 as a Republican. A previous Republican ward leader, he has also worked in mental health, education, college athletics, and as a staffer for former Councilmember David Oh. 

A Cedarbrook resident, Williams is the publisher of Uptown Standard newspaper, which covers Northwest Philly neighborhoods. On his campaign website, he proposed a digital town watch program to enforce accountability on gun shops making straw gun purchases, and expressed his support for ending the tax abatement. 

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