A relative newcomer to City Council, Jim Harrity is one of three Democratic at-large members seeking re-election this November.
He received 6% of the vote in May’s primary, following a special election to fill the vacancy left by Allan Domb’s resignation to pursue a mayoral bid.
Harrity’s path to politics was unconventional. A high school dropout at 17, he worked in restaurants while obtaining a GED from the Community College of Philadelphia. He then purchased a stall at the Bellevue food court, which was a popular hangout for figures in Philly’s political scene. He met then-City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who befriended Harrity and gave him a job as an investigator in his office.
It didn’t last; Harrity developed an addiction to alcohol following the loss of his son during birth and eventually turned to construction, finding work with Laborers Local 157. He survived a heart attack in 2010, setting him on a path to sobriety and an eventual second stint in government.
His re-entry into local politics began with volunteer work on campaigns, including Sherif Street’s successful run for Pa. Senate in 2016. Two years later, Harrity was promoted to executive director of Sharif’s office, and then became political director for the Pa. Democratic Party.
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Hailing from Southwest Philadelphia and now residing in Kensington, Harrity frames himself as a “regular guy,” whose struggles with addiction have left him appreciative of the importance of second chances. He lists crime reduction, specifically gun violence, as his main concern, advocating for an expansion in surveillance cameras throughout the city. Equally important, he says, is the renovation of aging schools and the construction of new ones to provide modernized learning spaces to Philadelphia students. He’d also like to see increased access to public parks, libraries, and rec centers for the city’s youth.
Also on Harrity’s list of priorities is providing better employment with livable wages, and continuing work on legislation to impact employment, education, and homelessness.
“Local politics have the most impact on a city’s quality of life,” he told the Philadelphia Citizen. “How a city becomes a desirable place to live is tied to a local government’s policy initiatives, and politicians will only care about these initiatives if informed Philadelphians participate in the local political process.”
While his campaign website is sometimes down, Harrity is active on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, X and Instagram, where he frequently posts photos of his constituents and fellow city officials, as well as inspirational quotes.
Harrity briefly made news last December with a city council website bio that went against the traditional format by loosely riffing on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme’s lyrics. It has since been replaced.
Harrity’s campaign finance situation
A 30-day post-primary campaign finance report, covering the three weeks leading up to June 5, shows contributions of $14,700 for that time period — the most notable of which is a $12,600 donation from Greater PA Carpenters PEC. His funds raised to date totaled $109,924.
Expenditures for that period, from consulting and printing fees to campaign shirts and catering from Fine Wine & Good Spirits, Beer and Tobacco Downtown, and some pizza spots, come up to $31,400.