Cherelle Parker supporters (from left) Wanda Davis, Melody Baysmore, and Kittura Dior, celebrate her win in the Philadelphia Democratic mayoral primary. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

💡 Get Philly smart 💡
with BP’s free daily newsletter

Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.

Cherelle Parker’s winning campaign for the Democratic nomination for Philly mayor had the backing of many established politicos and influential institutions. 

But the nominee also won support from plenty of engaged residents. Like their counterparts across the political spectrum, many Parker voters say they do want change. They just think years of building influential connections, political success, and growing clout are the key to making it happen.

That’s the takeaway from some of Parker’s strongest supporters — the women who helped get out the vote for the nominee by tapping into their own personal networks. 

These voters backed Parker for various reasons, including her policies on education, public safety, her positive energy, and her know-how. Or really, the combination of all those things.

“I think she brings the theory and the practice together,” Shoshana Bricklin, a 9th ward committeeperson, told Billy Penn at the kickoff event for Cherelle’s Corner, which brought together women interested in volunteering for Parker. 

Listening to one of the mayoral debates this spring, Bricklin thought Rebecca Rhynhart presented “great ideas and best practices” — but that’s not enough, she said.

“That’s all good,” Bricklin said. “But she doesn’t know what it’s like on the ground to do that, and Cherelle knows that.”

Delivering for constituents by ‘keeping certain elements out’

Parker’s experience — she’d served as a legislator a decade longer than her closest competitors on the ballot — was a frequent refrain. 

“I think people need to stay in their lane,” said Catherine Stafford, a constituent of Northwest Philly’s District 9, which Parker represented in Council from 2015 to 2022. “She knows politics, she knows how to run the city. But them other candidates, I don’t know about them.”

Fellow District 9 resident Lynne Wooden also shouted out Parker’s work as District 9’s rep over the past seven years. 

“Everything that we’ve asked for, the stuff that we don’t want in our district … she’s helped us to work out things the right way so that we can keep certain elements out of our neighborhood,” Wooden said.  

Donna, a supporter who said she’s known Parker for years, is a fan of the mayoral nominee’s public safety plan.

“I like the fact that she wants to bring police back into the community and increase the number of officers,” Donna said. “I also like the fact that she’s saying [there will be] zero tolerance for abuse.”

Parker has pledged to put 300 more officers on patrol, walking or riding a regular beat. That’s not necessarily an easy task, given the general national and local challenges with hiring police. 

Supporters at Cherelle Parker’s victory party celebrate her win in the Democratic mayoral primary on May 16. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With a crowded field of contenders, Parker’s vote total was relatively low compared to recent Democratic mayoral primary winners. She ended up garnering around 79k votes, versus 131k for Jim Kenney in 2015 and 107k for Michael Nutter in 2007. 

But of the nearly 244,000 who cast a vote for mayor, Parker’s share was more than enough to earn a decisive victory: she notched about 32%, versus Rhynhart’s 23% and Gym’s 22%. 

A positive vibe and ‘she follows through’

Annette, a resident of Kensington, said she spoke with Parker after a mayoral forum and came away impressed. She liked how positive the mood was around the campaign. 

“I haven’t seen anything negative about Cherelle,” she told Billy Penn in April. 

Indeed, no negative Parker-focused advertisements were aired during the campaign, even when polls made it clear Parker was one of the front-runners. 

A super PAC primarily funded by labor unions supported Parker and aired negative ads about Rhynhart, Domb, and Jeff Brown in the closing weeks of the primary. But there was no blowback from her competitors or their associated PACs.

Sydney Denkins, an assistant principal at Edison High School in North Philly, looks forward to Parker “being as good as her word.” 

“I’ve known Cherelle Parker for a long time, and she’s a very straightforward, grounded person who has strong beliefs,” Denkins said, “and she follows through.” 

Mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker at the Restoring Safety Forum hosted by Billy Penn, WHYY, and CeaseFirePA, in March 2023. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Denkins, who’s worked for the Philly School District since 1995, is a fan of Parker’s education platform. It would see school continue year-round with breaks periodically interspersed throughout, instead of clustered in the summer. 

“Other school districts have done all year school calendars and they’ve worked,” she said.

A supporter named Dawn said it was “about time” that a woman become Philly’s chief executive,

“I thought about Helen, and I have nothing against her,” Dawn said. But “having known someone who works with the city and had known [Parker] when she was in Harrisburg … I just thought, ‘She’s it.’”

She’s hoping Parker can generate buy-in in neighborhoods across the city. 

“There is a concerted effort to take away the rights of women, LGBT people, to take the rights of everyone who’s Other, and that concerns me” Dawn said. “I want someone in this large, diverse city who’s going to talk to people where they are, and make change.”

Avatar photo

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...