Nine candidates are running in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia on May 16, 2023. The winner will face David Oh—the only candidate who ran for the Republican nomination—in the general election on Nov. 7. Incumbent Jim Kenney (D), who was first elected mayor in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, is term-limited.
Asha Prihar, Jordan Levy, Meir Rinde, and Clifton Jackson wrote at BillyPenn.com, “The race to succeed term-limited Jim Kenney and become Philly’s 100th mayor is crowded. The field is full of candidates with solid experience, varied backgrounds, and a diverse array of ideas for the city’s future. With Philly’s 7-to-1 voter registration imbalance between the two major parties, the winner of the May Democratic primary is highly likely to win in the general election this fall. Given past turnout numbers for an odd-year primary, a lead of 10,000 to 15,000 votes could boost someone to a de facto overall victory.”
Jeff Brown, Allan Domb, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, and Rebecca Rhynhart lead in fundraising and media mentions.
Philadelphia has had a resign-to-run rule in its city charter since 1951. According to Henry Savage of The Philadelphia Inquirer, “If you work for the City of Philadelphia or hold an elected position in city government, you have to quit your job first in order to run for another public office. The only exception is if you are an elected official running for re-election.”
Brown owns 12 grocery stores in the city and has never run for elected office. In Jan. 2023, he was endorsed by the city’s largest labor union, District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 9,500 workers. He told Axios he was running for mayor because “Philadelphia is an amazing city with great potential, but we have been failed by bad leadership. I want to be mayor to serve the people of our city, address structural poverty and make this the city we all deserve.”
Domb was elected as an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council in 2015 and served on the council until 2022, when he resigned to run for mayor. He is a realtor and founded a real estate agency. Domb said he was “running for mayor because Philadelphia is in crisis and needs a leader who has the experience and vision needed to take on our biggest challenges.”
Gym was elected as an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council in 2015 and served until 2022, when she resigned to run for mayor. She is the former executive director of Asian Americans United and the co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, which described itself on its website as “a parent-led citywide organization focused on providing an independent voice for parents fighting for public education.” Gym told Axios she was running for mayor “to finish a job I started 30 years ago, when I was a teacher and a tough Philly mom who refused to accept broken systems, took on tough challenges and organized alongside communities for change.”
Parker was elected to the city council in 2016 and served until 2022, when she resigned to run for mayor. She began her political career as a city council staff member and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2005 to 2016. Parker was elected the council’s majority leader in 2020. Her website says, “It was in this role where she focused on public safety, stabilizing “middle neighborhoods,” economic opportunity – especially for small businesses, and working to get city government to function like it should.”
Rhynhart was elected Philadelphia City Controller in 2018 and resigned in 2022 to run for mayor. She is a former director at Fitch Ratings and managing director at Bear Stearns. Rhynhart was appointed Philadelphia City Treasurer in 2008 by former Mayor Michael Nutter, and also served as the city’s Budget Director and Chief Administrative Officer under Mayor Jim Kenney. Rhynhart’s website says that her time spent in the city’s various financial roles was important: “She used her financial expertise to expose wasteful spending and make government work more effectively with an emphasis on equity, fairness and social justice. She has shown courage in refusing to back down from tough fights in order to serve Philadelphia.”
The city’s last 10 mayors were all elected as Democrats, and the last Republican to serve as mayor was Bernard Samuel, whose term ended in 1952.
The filing deadline for the primary was March 8, and the filing deadline for the general election for independent candidates is Aug. 1.