The Philadelphia City Seal. (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

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An incumbent appeared to be ousted in one of the Democratic primary contests for Philadelphia’s so-called row offices.

Party-endorsed challenger John Sabatina beat sitting Register of Wills Tracey Gordon, who had been accused of retaliating against employees if they declined to contribute to her reelection campaign. With all precincts reporting, Sabatina garnered 32% of the vote, over Gordon’s 30%.

Sheriff Rochelle Bilal held off her challenger and is likely headed to reelection in November, beating Michael Untermeyer despite numerous scandals during her tenure and a report that her office is being investigated by the FBI. Bilal led with 43% of the vote, versus Untermeyer’s 41%.

For City Controller’s Office, Christy Brady definitively won the nomination to serve out the two years remaining following Rebecca Rhynhart’s resignation last year. The three contenders for the Office of City Commissioners won their races after running for reelection unchallenged.

Register of Wills falls to party-backed challenger

Allegations of misconduct also figured into the contest for Register of Wills, the office that records wills, collects inheritance taxes, stores estate inventories, and issues marriage licenses.

Incumbent Tracey Gordon had a surprise win in 2019 over Ron Donatucci, who had held the job for 40 years. During her tenure, Gordon focused on helping residents address tangled titles, which occur when someone can’t prove ownership of their home. 

She was criticized for hiring a former state legislator who had been convicted on bribery charges, and two former employees alleged she fired them for not donating to her reelection campaign.

The Democratic committee endorsed John Sabatina, an estate lawyer and longtime Northeast Philly ward leader who promised to digitize the office’s records and offer “efficient service.” 

The Inquirer endorsed Rae Hall, a Mayor’s office employee who also promised technological upgrades, as well as more transparent hiring. Also running was Elizabeth Hall Lowe, who works on federal regulatory compliance at the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. 

GOP ward leader Linwood Holland is the sole Republican candidate.

Sheriff withstands a challenge

The Sheriff’s Office is in charge of transporting prisoners, managing tax delinquent property sales and providing courthouse security, but it’s best known for its long history of mismanagement, corruption, and sexual harassment.

The incumbent, former police officer Rochelle Bilal, was elected as a reformer, and she touted her work modernizing its sales and hiring processes and suspending evictions during the pandemic. The city’s Democratic party committee endorsed her reelection bid.

But the scandals continued during her term, including missing guns, a deputy who sold firearms used in a fatal shooting, evidence that Bilal tried to double her own salary, and in the past week, a report that the FBI is investigating the office

That made for easy campaign fodder for challenger Michael Untermeyer, a former prosecutor who has previously run for sheriff, district attorney, and City Council. Untermeyer put $250,000 of his own money into his campaign. 

Jack Miles, a former deputy sheriff who is the director of security for the NBA‘s Washington Wizards, also ran for the Democratic nomination. 

Mark Lavelle, a warehouse manager who ran for state rep last year, is the only Republican in the race.

City Controller

Christy Brady won the Democratic nomination in the city controller race, a contest that will fill out the rest of former controller Rebecca Rhynhart’s term, which ends in 2026.

The controller is the independent fiscal watchdog for the city government. Mayor Kenney appointed Brady as acting controller when Rhynhart resigned to run for mayor. Brady held the role for three months until she quit to run for full title.

Brady, a certified public accountant who lives in Northeast Philly, has worked in the controller’s office for 28 years. Before she became acting controller she was the city’s first woman deputy controller of audit.

Her priorities include investigating code violation enforcement in construction, auditing the Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grant Program, and following up on the audit of the HealthChoices Fund. She was endorsed by the city Democratic committee, as well as many open wards and around a dozen labor unions.

Candidate Alexandra Hunt is a public health professional who has been a soccer coach, activist, and stripper, and ran against U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans last year. She vowed to vet violence prevention and harm reduction programs, push the city to divest from fossil fuels, investigate charter school finances, and find funding for a public bank.

Also running was John Thomas of Northwest Philly, a management consultant and former deputy controller who would have been the first Black controller. 

As of Wednesday morning, Brady had garnered 46% of the primary vote. Hunt had 31%, and Thomas had 22%.

Brady will face the Republican candidate, Aaron Bashir, in the November election. Bashir is a Northeast Philly accountant who previously ran for Congress and the state House.

City Commissioner

Philadelphia’s current three city commissioners will advance to the November general election after running unchallenged in their primary.

The three City Commissioners oversee voter registration and conduct elections. No party can hold more than two seats on the board.

The incumbents are slated to face Working Families Party candidate Jarrett Smith, a union lobbyist who’s vying for the non-majority seat, in November.

City Commissioner Chairwoman Lisa Deeley, a Democrat, has been on the board since 2016 and previously worked for City Council, the City Controller, and the state House of Representatives. She oversaw changes to state elections law that led to increases in mail voting during the pandemic, the purchase of new voting machines, and construction of a new election center.

Vice Chair Omar Sabir, a Democrat, has served as a commissioner since 2020. He previously worked for State Sen. Vincent Hughes, the court system, and in other positions. He created the Octavius Catto Taskforce to educate communities on the necessity of civic engagement and founded a program to increase voter turnout.

Bluestein, a Republican, has served as a commissioner since February 2022. He was previously chief deputy commissioner for former Commissioner Al Schmidt, a deputy commissioner, and the department’s chief integrity officer. He and Schmidt were heavily criticized by then-president Donald Trump and state Republicans for their roles running the 2020 presidential election in Philadelphia.

Correction: Candidate for sheriff Michael Untermeyer did not support abolishing the office, as indicated in a previous version of this story.

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Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...

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Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...