The City of Brotherly Love is about to elect a new Mayor. Well, technically they won’t do that until November – but given that Philadelphia hasn’t chosen a Republican Mayor since 1947 – the May 16th Democratic primary is essentially the ballgame.
Since I last updated you all this race, we’ve gotten four separate polls, two of which were independent surveys. By averaging them all together we find Controller Rebecca Rhynhart a hair ahead with 19%, while Councilwomen Helen Gym and Cherelle Parker are both right behind her with 18%. Next up was Councilman Allan Domb averaging out at 14%, with businessman Jeff Brown falling to 11%.
As recently as a month ago, Brown appeared to be the front-runner in this race, as an early run of TV ads emphasizing an outsider message helped him stand out from a crowded field. The subsequent attention, however, began to backfire on Brown when signs of a prickly personality, plus an Ethics Board review of a pro-Brown Super PAC, caused a noticeable dip in the polls.
In fact, each successive survey has shown Brown doing worse as 13% became 12% became 11% until finally he fell to 9%. At this rate, Brown might be contemplating whether he’d be most effective by exiting the race and endorsing one of his top challengers. Given the fights he’s gotten into with Gym, he may well seek to prevent her from winning. The conundrum in that case would be who he would pick between Rhynhart, Parker and Domb. Although after coming this far, he’ll likely choose to simply stick it out through the end.
Speaking of Gym, the contest’s most progressive candidate is getting help from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will spend the Sunday before Election Day at a campaign rally with her. It’s all part of Gym’s plan to use a motivated ground game to push her over the top on the 16th. Keep in mind that the left possesses a powerful turnout operation in Philly; even as cities nationwide turned against crusading District Attorneys, progressive incumbent Larry Krasner easily won re-nomination and re-election here in 2021.
Should Gym emerge victorious it would constitute the second consecutive triumph for progressives, coming just a month after Brandon Johnson captured the Chicago Mayoral Democratic nomination. Yet she’s facing a considerable challenge from the city’s moneyed interests, exemplified by top GOP donor Jeff Yass, who’s funding an anti-Gym Super PAC.
Meanwhile, the two more Establishment contenders – Rebecca Rhynhart and Cherelle Parker – are battling for institutional support. For instance, Congressmen Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle both recently cut TV ads for Parker. Rep. Evans represents heavily Black Western Philadelphia, where Parker will need to post impressive turnout numbers. Rep. Boyle, on the other hand, represents Northeast Philly, a mostly white working-class section of the city. A strong enough combination of the two groups could propel Parker to victory, an outcome that might be facilitated by the informal support of longtime Philly Democratic Party Chair Bob Brady.
At the same time, Rhynhart is piling up her own endorsements. Former Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell joined her list of backers that already included ex-Mayors Michael Nutter and John Street. As a result, the city’s Mayors from 1991 through 2015 are all behind Rhynhart, as is the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Despite holding only the slimmest of advantages, Rhynhart is eagerly describing herself as the front-runner in her TV spots, in the hopes that voters will see her as the candidate with momentum.
Finally, we shouldn’t completely discount the possibility that Allan Domb can pull off an upset. If Brown continues to fade, it’s conceivable that his voters will gravitate to the other wealthy white guy with an outsider message blanketing the airwaves.
With such a close contest in an election of tremendous importance, this race is sure to be thrilling to watch a week from tomorrow. Yet it won’t be the only contest I’ll be following on the 16th.
As I’ve noted before, there’s a bitterly contested Gubernatorial GOP primary taking place in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Former UN Ambassador Kelly Craft is making a late charge against Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and we’re waiting to see what effect (if any) their first debate has on the polls. In addition to that, we’re also waiting to see if Mitch McConnell will weigh in on this race and whether such a move will backfire. After all, Craft is now attacking Cameron by tying him to the unpopular long-time Republican Senate leader.
Come May 16th, I’ll be keeping a close eye on both these contests, and you can too by following live Election Night results here at Decision Desk HQ. Then I’ll be back Wednesday for my day-after recap and analysis; it should be an exciting night!