Parker promises to focus on public safety, quality-of-life issues

Cherelle Parker greets supporters Tuesday, Nov. 7, ahead of an Election Day rally in the Far Northeast.
Jack Tomczuk

By Jack Tomczuk and BROOKE SCHULTZ Associated Press/Report for America

Democrat Cherelle Parker will be Philadelphia’s 100th mayor and the first woman in the position, after voters elected her Tuesday.

Parker, 51, who emerged from a crowded field in the May primary, previously served in City Council and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She will succeed Mayor Jim Kenney, who was ineligible for reelection due to term limits.

She grabbed about 74% of the vote in a matchup with her former Council colleague, Republican David Oh, according to unofficial results from the City Commissioners. Oh had been hoping to end a seven-decade stretch of Democratic mayoral dominance.

Parker is expected to announce her transition team Thursday and discuss her plans in the lead up to January, when she will take office.

“We have less than two months until inauguration day, and that’s not a lot of time, but we’ve already started putting in the work to make sure I’m ready to lead on Day One,” she said, in a video posted on social media Wednesday morning.

President Joe Biden called Parker on Tuesday night to congratulate her, according to the White House, and Kenney called her victory a “historic milestone.”

“I am proud to call Cherelle a friend and a colleague, and I look forward to working with her to ensure a smooth and successful transition that keeps our city’s progress on track,” Kenney continued, in a statement.

Parker was heavily favored, given that Democrats have a greater than 7-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans in the city. She won a majority of the vote in 57 of Philadelphia’s 66 political wards, gaining more than 90% of the tally in some areas, the unofficial results show.

Though Oh attempted to build a diverse, citywide coalition, he only came out on top in traditional GOP strongholds, including the Far Northeast, Bridesburg and the 26th Ward in deep South Philadelphia.

A native of West Oak Lane, Parker was raised by her grandparents, and she became involved in political advocacy as a teenager. Former City Councilmember Marian Tasco mentored Parker, who ran successfully for state representative in 2005. Following a decade in Harrisburg, Parker succeeded Tasco in 2015, when the latter retired.

During her primary and general election campaigns for mayor, she received significant support from the Philadelphia Building Trades, a coalition of powerful construction-related unions.

Cherelle Parker
Democratic mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker arrives Wednesday, Feb. 22, for an event announcing an endorsement from the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council.Metro file

To the tune of “Ladies First,” an emotional Parker appeared and addressed supporters at her election night watch party, repeating campaign promises to address struggles with crime, education, jobs and poverty. She vowed to work with Philadelphia’s state legislative delegation and City Council to move the city forward.

“Who is Cherelle Parker going to be? A get-it-done Philadelphian. A get-it-done mayor who won’t ever forget her deep roots,” she said. “I’m Philly-born, I’m Philly-bred and I’ll be Philadelphian ’til I’m dead.”

Parker’s moderate message resonated with voters who are increasingly worried about public safety as well as quality-of-life issues, from faulty streetlights to potholes to trash collection. She also promised a well-trained police force that is engaged with the community along with mental health and behavioral support.

Supporters at the watch party hugged in celebration. Among them was Carolyn Mosley, 57, who said her main concerns going into the election were crime and taxes.

After meeting Parker at a church event earlier this year, she was “100% sold,” she said: “I believe that she can effectively change Philadelphia.”

“Her story reminds me of my story,” said Mosley, who is also a Black woman. “And I can see girls can emulate her.”