Why the 70 mayoral poll is REALLY important

It’s Friday morning, and I can guarantee you that most of the chattering class is hitting refresh, waiting for the release today of the independent mayoral poll commissioned by the Committee of Seventy.

Why the intense interest in the poll?

Because out of the nine Democratic candidates hoping to become Philadelphia’s 100th mayor, five are believed to be tightly bunched at the top. Those are: Rebecca Rhynhart, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Allan Domb, and Jeff Brown. 

While serious journalists pretend they eschew the “horse race” aspect of the campaign, preferring to deal with issues, there’s no denying the excitement comes from the horse race. It’s easy to grasp. People understand it.

By now anyone who cares about the issues knows where each candidate stands on a variety of them. If the media doesn’t provide it, almost every candidate has a website with the issues spelled out, often in numbing detail.

If the 70 poll reveals a leader, that’s one thing.

If it exposes probable losers, that sets things in motion.


Less than three weeks from the May 16 primary, 25% or more of privately polled voters say they are undecided.

“I’ve never seen anything like this so close to an election,” I was told by a long-time party walrus, who shared the results of several internal polls with me. I am among the undecided, and will explain why in a minute. 

Faced with near-certain defeat, it is hoped and believed, some candidates will exit and throw their support to other candidates. Example: Derek Green bowed out and endorsed his Northwest Coalition colleague, Cherelle Parker, making her the only Black candidate in the top tier.

Race matters, but it is not necessarily determinative. In the hotly contested 2015 mayor race, Jim Kenney won with an outright majority, in part because the mostly Black Northwest Coalition threw its support to him, rather than to Black state senator Anthony Hardy Williams. 

Jeff Brown and Allan Domb are the Big Business Boys, each middle aged, white, and moderate, and they have been beating each other up. 

In one widely circulated poll taken back in March, Brown was tied for the lead with Helen Gym at 16%. In a not released April poll, he had fallen to 11%, tied with Cherelle Parker in fourth place.

In that poll, Domb is in third place with 14%, nipping at Helen Gym’s heels with 15. 

And that was before Brown ran afoul of the Ethics Board.

Another private poll has Rhynhart leading with 20%, followed by Parker at 18%, Domb at 16%, Gym at 13%, Brown at 11%. 

Among nonprogressive Dems, an acronym is rising, one I already have been using: ABG — Anyone But Gym.

I am told a poll taken by the FOP, which endorsed Brown, has him around 10%. That’s a doom number.

If Brown believes the writing is on the wall, he may suspend his campaign, and endorse another candidate. Who? ABG.

Regardless of what he does, if he is believed to be fatally wounded, a chunk of his votes will go to Domb, his brother from another mother, with less going to Parker and Rhynhart.

This is why I am undecided. I have my mail ballot, but I am not filling it out until I see who has the best chance of beating Gym, who would be a disaster for Philadelphia. I will explain why in a future column.

Domb has been running a consistent third, it seems, while Rynhart and Parker each are rising, Gym seems stalled, and Brown is falling. Parker has received the official backing of the majority of the Wards, but watch out for election-day, money-fueled skullduggery.

Gym can’t be counted out because her base is the rising left wing of progressives. They are not a majority — yet — but they turn out on Election Day (or mail in their ballots). They are motivated True Believers.

The last time Gym ran citywide for her At-Large Council seat, in 2019, she rang up 108,604 votes — way ahead of second-place Domb, at 67,193.

If everyone stays in, a candidate can win with 65,000 votes, maybe less, opines former mayoral candidate and numbers guy Sam Katz. Gym got nearly double that last time.

Moderate Dems like me are worried that the more traditional Dems will split the vote and allow the most radical to prevail — think Donald J. Trump in 2016.

Like MAGA people, the Gym rats will scurry to the polls in what some political forecasters expect to be a low turnout election.

Low turnout? For a contested Mayor’s race?

Sorry, yes. In the hotly contested 2015 primary, Kenney won a majority, but only 27% of registered voters bothered to vote — 234,000 out of 806,000.

In case you forgot, Kenney beat his main rival, state senator Anthony Hardy Williams by 30 points. Also rans were former D.A. Lynne Abraham, former Judge Nelson Diaz, former state senator Milton Street, and business executive Doug Oliver. 

In the previous hotly contested mayor’s race, 2007, turnout was 39%, which is still miserable. 

Even if no one drops out in the next two weeks, the Committee 70 poll will allow people like me to coalesce behind and support the leading non-Gym candidate. 

Oh — wait. There is a 70 poll we can look at — a non-scientific preference poll on the 70 website, https://seventy.org/ranked-vote that asks those taking it to list their preferences for mayor. In other words, you don’t vote for one, but vote for who you like first, second, third, etc. This is called ranked-choice voting.

I took the test about six days ago, and again Wednesday night, with the same results — Rhynhart comfortably in first and Gym second. 

This is the latest.

However, this is unscientific and 70 is followed mainly by white, Center City, liberal, politically aware, good government types. In other words, not typical Philadelphians. And fewer than 2,000 voted.

This small sample contains people who are very likely Rhynhart and Gym voters. Gym is a hard-line prog, Rhynhart more of a reformer.

It is not too surprising that those two emerge at the top.

If the official poll shows about the same, and if my analysis of why the undecideds are sitting it out, I expect the undecideds to heavily break in favor of RR.

Which will make her Philadelphia’s 100th and first female mayor.

20 thoughts on “Why the 70 mayoral poll is REALLY important”

  1. Right now I think the top three are Parker, Jeff Brown and Gym. The city loses if any of them are elected. Out of all of them Helen Gym would be the worst of all. It’s scary because with the low election day turnout and the recent election history of Philadelphia, the misguided and misinformed voters always vote for the worst candidate. My vote is going to David Oh. He may not win but out of the candidates running he is the best choice for our city.

  2. ABG I agree is a good idea. She is reckless with her financial views. We can’t afford her.

  3. This is a great piece. I’ve been having difficulty deciding, and as you predict here, am now leaning towards Rebecca Rynhart. She is the most qualified, and appears to be authentic, and level headed. I often shop in one of the Shop Rites owned by Jeff Brown, and do like him. (His store has been a great assett to our community) but I fear that at this point he probably won’t win, so a vote for him may be a waste. ….On another note, shouldn’t a city the size of Philadelphia and with the myriad of problems have an “Assistant Mayor?…

  4. Since the city is basically a one party town, would it be helpful to open the primary to all parties (meaning, you’re allowed to vote for someone from any party)? Seems to be a big waste of energy, time and money to have people change their party affiliation to vote in the primary, Even though only about 18% of the city is republican or another party. Note: I’ve gotten that “message” from a few of the candidates. Stu…what’s your take?

    1. I oppose open primaries. That will destroy the political parties, which might be good in some ways, but it could lead to the chaos in Italy or Israel with tiny parties getting too much power.

      1. Closed primaries end up with the more extreme candidates winning and leave independents with no voice. And we’re not in danger of becoming Italy nor Israel (unless a Trumpican wins the Presidency).

  5. If it was ranked choice voting I’d vote for domb but as an abg voter I may be forced to vote for Rhinehart who will probably do a good job as mayor.
    Abg voters have to remember that progressives are fanatical about voting ( a good thing ) so 100% of gyms voters will def vote while probably only 80 to 90% of everyone else’s will so she def still has the edge unless abg voters go for one candidate

    1. She’s a big progressive. She acts like a fiscal conservative but NOT. The former Mayors and current drunk Mayor supporting her doesn’t really help with voters who are sick and tired of the crap.

  6. There is only one person who can change this city for the better, and that’s Domb. He’s running a quiet and effective campaign. Don’t sleep on Allan.

    1. Rhynhart is not about as progressive as Domb. She isn’t part of the Democratic machine. She is the best choice for mayor. Domb did next to nothing as a member of city council.

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