Former councilmember and then-mayoral candidate Derek Green at a February 2023 press conference in front of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Derek Green dropped out of the mayor’s race back in April, but he’s still keeping busy on the campaign trail.

Last Tuesday found the former at-large councilmember at a Pennsylvania Bar Association cocktail hour. Green wasn’t there as a candidate, but to accompany Democratic mayoral nominee Cherelle Parker and introduce her to attorneys he’s met over the course of his legal career. 

It was one of a number of recent events he’s attended with or on behalf of Parker, a fellow Northwest Philly resident and former council colleague, as the November general election approaches.

“He’s a valued member of our team,” said John Dolan, who is Parker’s deputy campaign manager and previously managed Green’s mayoral campaign. “We’re really proud he continues to be one of our most vocal supporters.”

Green’s close relationship with Parker and his lengthy experience with the city would seem to position him well for a top job in her administration if she wins the election. His supporters and colleagues are quick to proclaim his talents and say they’d like to see him continue serving in government.

“Who knows what he does next, but I can’t wait to find out,” said John Hawkins, a City Hall lobbyist and close friend of Green’s.

People who know him say they don’t actually expect Green to return to City Hall right away. He’s enjoying his private sector work as a lawyer and lobbyist, spending time with his wife and son, and taking a break from a councilmember’s hectic schedule of constant public events, they say. 

Eventually, though, they want him to seek elected office again.

“I would be surprised if Derek goes into a Parker administration,” Hawkins said, but, “I’m still hopeful he decides to run for district attorney in 2025.” 

That, or a run for Congress if a seat opens up, or possibly even another bid for mayor could be in his future, they say. 

Green himself declined to discuss his future prospects. 

“I’m keeping my options open,” he told Billy Penn last week. “I am a ‘recovering elected official.’ I’m not sure if I will amend that title of ‘recovering’ at some point. We shall see. I just want to see a successful transition for the new mayor.”

A potential tough-on-crime Krasner challenger 

Hawkins and other friends have been urging Green to consider running for DA. Former campaign manager Dolan said he thought his old boss would be an “awesome fit” for the job and that “few people would be more qualified.”  

Green has some experience as a prosecutor, having worked for Delaware’s attorney general and briefly as an assistant DA in Philadelphia. 

He has also sought to distinguish himself as a tough-on-crime politician. During his mayoral run he proposed hiring 1,000 more officers and creating a $50 million police unit that would circumvent progressive DA Larry Krasner by working with federal prosecutors to pursue shooting, homicide and weapons cases.

Green has some time to decide, as the primary for Philly district attorney isn’t until May 2025. 

Former Councilmember Derek Green at a March 2023 forum for Philadelphia mayoral primary candidates. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

He may have to decide if it’s worth challenging Krasner, who was reelected easily in 2021 despite record rates of violent crime and intense political attacks. Krasner has said he won’t decide whether to run for a third term until the end of next year. 

Another consideration is the outcome of next year’s state attorney general race, which has so far drawn multiple candidates from Philadelphia including former Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey and state Rep. Jared Solomon, who are both friends of Green’s. If they lose the AG primary and decide to run for District Attorney, that could complicate his decision.

Green’s also aware that serving as district attorney can be a grim task, requiring the officeholder to face the details of violent crime every day while remaining under constant public scrutiny and criticism, according to people who have talked to him about a potential run.

He could run for Congress if U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, whose district includes Northwest Philly, decides to retire. The 69-year-old Evans was reelected last year and is running for another term, so that seat is unlikely to open up until the 2026 election at the earliest.

Helping new councilmembers figure out what’s what

Green resigned to run for mayor in September 2022 and dropped out of the race in April. He endorsed Parker and continued his work at Obermayer, a large regional law firm he’s been with for eight years. 

He added a second job at Bellevue Strategies, a well-known lobbying firm with offices in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, where part of his focus is helping the company in its work on behalf of Black-owned firms, he said.

“What I’m trying to do is help them grow this portfolio of businesses, because ultimately it’s about addressing poverty,” Green said.

While friends say he’s been spending more time with his family, traveling, and hanging out at the shore over the summer, he’s also maintained a steady stream of public appearances and civic activities, recalling his campaign slogan from 2019, “Derek is everywhere.”

“You don’t want people to forget you or consider you a has-been, and so you’ve got to stay in the mix,” said Councilmember Sharon Vaughn, Green’s former chief of staff. “You want people to feel as though you still have something to contribute. He’s still young enough and ambitious enough to want to keep that door open.”

He hosted a primary day radio broadcast, is active with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and serves as a surrogate for Parker when she can’t attend a function or meeting. He goes running a few times a week and recently rowed a boat that had been named after him.

Then-mayoral candidate Derek Green answering students’ questions at a forum hosted by the Philadelphia Board of Education in March 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Green, whose son Julian is on the autism spectrum, regularly attends events for disabled youth or put on by organizations in the disability community, and in July he spoke at a Free Library event on raising children of color. He’ll be on a panel next month at the Museum of the American Revolution on James Forten, a successful Revolutionary-era Black businessman. 

Along with the Urban Affairs Coalition, the Committee of 70, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, he’s putting together a roundtable discussion in November to orient and educate the city’s unusually large group of new and recently elected councilmembers, he said.

“If you never stepped a foot in City Council, there’s a lot of learning,” Green said, listing off entities like Philadelphia Gas Works, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, and SEPTA, whose workings councilmembers may need to understand in order to do their jobs effectively.

“Now that you are elected, how do you structure your office? What committees do you look to be on?” he said. “How do you take ideas you campaigned on and turn them into legislative initiatives, through resolutions and passing bills? How do you build coalitions within this legislative body?” 

He’s also helping organize another event, “a comprehensive conversation regarding public safety,” for sometime early next year.

“Although I’m no longer elected, people reach out to me to ask questions, and I still get constituent requests on all kinds of issues,” Green said. “So I’m a recovering elected official, but also a ‘citizen at large.’”

Updated to note that the AFL-CIO is part of the collaborative organizing the November roundtable.

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,...