Yes, even before Philadelphians have selected our next governor and U.S. senator, I’m going to look over the horizon and take a stab at figuring out who our next mayor will be.
In the words of one of my anonymous political gurus, that election will be strange.
For one reason, so many people will be running, and the males are weak. A record number of women are running.
Just look at the female diversity! Four women and no two alike: One African-American, one Latina, one Asian, one Causasian. (In order: Cherelle Parker, Maria Quinones Sanchez, Helen Gym ((who has yet to announce)), and Rebecca Rhynhart.)
Among the males, only Councilman Derek Green has announced, and resigned his seat. Alan Domb resigned his Council seat, but is expected to announce, as is Shop Rite CEO Jeff Brown.
What follows is an amalgam of my own opinion and analysis, plus that of several political experts, to whom I offered anonymity so as to get the most honest opinions. They are people I have known and respected for decades, I call them Stu’s Stars, but I don’t always agree with them. This is a blend of conventional wisdom, unconventional wisdom and stabs in the dark.
We agree on this: To be a winner, you need a political base of like-minded people who will stick with you through thick and thin. You also need money, a lot of it. In the 21st century, you’ll also need a strong social media presence. This mayoral race could top $5 million.
While race may not be the most important thing, it is an important thing.
An X factor is gender. Is being female a disadvantage?
In the 2015 Democratic mayoral campaign, the lone female, former D.A. Lynne Abraham, finished third, with 8.40%, behind runaway Jim Kenney (55.8%) and Anthony Hardy Williams (26.13%). Doug Oliver, Nelson Diaz and Milton Street were also-rans.
Abraham lost not because she was a woman, but because she did not run as what she had been, a conservative Democrat. She lost on ideology not gender. (Remember Queena Bass who ran in the 2007 Democratic primary? That’s OK. No one else does.)
Philadelphia’s next mayor will be a woman. Why not?
Let’s look at the candidates, starting with the rich white men (I say that with affection) who have not yet announced, and who might share the same lane.
As a former Councilman, Alan Domb should have a political base, but does not. He was elected At-Large, which means he represented the entire city, which is like being a Jack of all trades. District Council people have a geographical base, and it’s usually very loyal if you are a Democrat.
Domb is politically moderate, business friendly and might be the most competent candidate. He has more money than God, but has a reputation of being indecisive and cheap. As a multi-millionaire, will he attract other donors? Not until he spends a couple million of his own, and there are doubts he will. He also has business interests he would have to divest as mayor.
Jeff Brown has big money in a state PAC, and maybe can attract more than Domb. He has something “condo king” Domb lacks — ties to the minority community. He has taken risks by opening supermarkets in “food deserts” and has hired ex-cons, mostly minorities. That gives him street cred among Blacks, more than Parker and Green, says one of my experts.
Another says Brown is a “bullshitter,” and Domb will spend what it takes.
Domb and Brown will cancel each other out by splitting the moderate, pro-business, white vote. The path to victory? They make a deal — Domb runs for mayor, Brown to be his managing director, or chief of staff. Or vice versa. But would either be happy as No. 2?
Parker and Green both come out of Northwest Philadelphia, the section with a reputation for turning out the vote, as it did in 2015 for Jim Kenney. Each is a protege of Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who ended her career under a cloud over her grabbing a huge DROP payment.
Green served two terms At-Large without creating many waves. He’s known as a moderate policy wonk. Think Michael Nutter with no “Rapper’s Delight.” He could be the tortoise, says one of Stu’s Stars.
Parker was Council Majority Leader and a former state rep, who has won elections, even if they were not heavily contested. She is a ward leader with union support, as well as from the Democratic establishment. While she seems progressive, she’s also for more police, not fewer.
Will she and Green split the Black vote? In a Mount Airy showdown, the majority of my council says Parker emerges with the lioness’ share.
Caution note: The Northwest progressive coalition may have lost energy in recent years, and even though Parker lives in their midst, the more progressives may lean toward Helen Gym.
Ah, Councilwoman Helen Gym, the perennial busybody who has called me a racist, sexist, misogynist and neo-colonialist. Just so you know.
I call her a noisy shrew consumed with identity politics and a vessel filled with imagined slights. Such as when she threatened to sue the owners of a University City Asian food truck for being racist because it was named “Wheely Wheely Good.”
Gym believed the name mocked how some Asian people speak. The owners of the food truck, who are Asian, said the term referred to the truck being on wheels.
Stu’s Stars agreed Gym would be formidable, her base is among educational activists, limousine liberals, the woke — and she would be a disaster as mayor.
Latest to jump in is former city Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who has won citywide races, but who knows her name? Meaning the general population of Philadelphia. Fewer than even Derek Green.
Her base would be white, educated women, and because of her financial background she could access money. One of my experts sees her as a “wild card.”
Sanchez was elected as the first Latina member of Council in 2007, and won four times without party backing. Party support ain’t what it once was, but winning citywide is more challenging than winning a largely Hispanic district.
She has a reputation of being difficult — I know that from personal experience — but one of my sources says she is making inroads with some corporate types impressed with her acuity, something she has managed to keep hidden from me.
Keep in mind if there are seven or more candidates, someone could win the primary with less than 25% of the vote.
One of Stu’s Spies says one of the politicians took a recent poll showing Gym and Sanchez leading.
My gut tells me Cherelle Parker will be Philadelphia’s 100th and first female mayor.