Primary Preview: City Council shakeup looms as candidates vie for open seats

City Council election preview
Tuesday’s election will help shape the composition of City Hall for years to come.
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At least four new members – and possibly more – will join City Council when elected leaders are sworn in early next year.

Fresh faces are getting an opportunity on the legislative body thanks in large part to the six council members who resigned to enter the mayor’s race.

Democrats, in particular, will have a lot of decisions to make Tuesday, with more than two dozen at-large hopefuls on the ballot and several contested district races.

For the at-large seats, which are elected citywide, party members will be asked to pick up to five candidates to advance to the general election.

Two of the seven at-large slots are reserved for representatives from minority parties. While they have traditionally been Republicans, Kendra Brooks, of the Working Families Party, currently holds one of the seats and is running for reelection. Progressives are also aiming to pick up the other following the resignation of David Oh. Third party candidates will appear on the ballot in November.

Democratic At-Large

Derwood Selby: A TV and radio host on public access outlets, he told the Committee of Seventy that his top priorities would be gun violence, education and economic development.

Sherrie Cohen: An attorney and LGBTQ activist who has unsuccessfully run for council several times, she said in an interview with PhillyCAM that she would seek to reduce mass incarceration and poverty.

Qiana Shedrick: A U.S. Army veteran, her Pretty Peaceful Productive, or PPP, platform focuses on cleaner streets, reducing crime and improving city services.

Jalon Alexander: A cybersecurity attorney and Strawberry Mansion native, he believes public schools need to increase STEM programming, and he has made headlines for his idea to use drones as a crime-fighting tool.

Luz Colón: A lifelong Kensington resident who has worked for three council members and Gov. Tom Wolf, her campaign is prioritizing public safety, economic opportunity and schools.

Wayne Dorsey: He fell short in a 2019 bid for council at-large, and, this time around, he is focusing on mental health, education, neighborhood clean-ups and housing.

Deshawnda Williams: Known as “Dr. Dee,” she is a pastor and social worker who wants to increase access to mental health treatment and beautify neighborhoods.

Melissa Robbins: A Northeast Philadelphia-based racial justice advocate, her platform includes expanding home ownership, eliminating tuition at the Community College of Philadelphia, and implementing street cleaning.

Amanda McIllmurray: A co-founder of Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive political organization, she wants to institute rent control to protect tenants and believes tough-on-crime policies destabilize neighborhoods. She has been endorsed by the Working Families Party and AFSCME District Council 47, among others.

Abu V. Edwards: A political organizer involved with the local NAACP, he wants to improve 911 response times, fully fund the city’s Board of Ethics and support minority- and woman-owned small businesses.

Rue Landau: A housing attorney and former director of the city’s Commission on Human Relations, she would prioritize helping residents repair their homes and increase the number of violence interrupters. Landau has received the endorsement of the local Democratic Party and a host of progressive groups and elected officials.

Ogbonna Paul Hagins: An environmental activist and entrepreneur, he supports an elected Board of Education, developing a Green New Deal for the city, and reduced property tax rates for older homeowners.

Erika Almirón: As the former executive director of Juntos, she advocated on behalf of the rights of immigrants. She would push for progressive tax policies and housing for all residents. Almirón has been endorsed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and District Attorney Larry Krasner, among other organizations and individuals.

Nina Ahmad: She served as deputy mayor for public engagement under the Kenney administration and was narrowly defeated in the 2020 race for state auditor general. Ahmad believes all of the city’s challenges are “rooted in health.”

Charles Reyes: Most recently a coordinator at one of the Kenney administration’s community schools, he would advocate for funding mobile crisis units to reduce violence, and he supports strengthening the city’s Office of Workforce Development.

Donavan West: The former head of the regional African American Chamber of Commerce, West supports expanding Group Violence Intervention to reduce shootings and bolstering faith-based organizations to foster community development.

NaDerah Griffin: She told the Committee of Seventy that addressing crime and violence through education, mental health and employment initiatives would be her top priority.

Jim Harrity: A Kensington resident, he was elected to council last year after being picked by Democratic Party leaders as a nominee in a special election. He believes the situation in his neighborhood is unacceptable and that the city should help get drug users off the street and into treatment. Harrity has strong union support, including from the Building Trades Council.

Eryn Santamoor: A former chief of staff to Allan Domb, she is taking her second crack at running for council at-large. Santamoor wants to develop community safety plans for every police district and supports continued decreases to the wage tax. The city’s Democratic Party has endorsed her.

George Stevenson: In a Committee of Seventy questionnaire, he said he would work toward making city departments more responsive to residents and help seniors repair their homes.

John B. Kelly: A finance professional and son of a former council member, he wants to transition PGW to cleaner energy and put civilians in office jobs to get more police officers onto the street.

Curtis Segers III: An assistant principal at Mastery’s Mann Elementary School and an Olney resident, Segers told PhillyCAM he believes the funding formula for city schools needs to be reconsidered.

Katherine Gilmore Richardson: Before being elected to council four years ago, she served in the office of former Councilmember At-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown. Among other organizations, she is endorsed by the Philadelphia Democratic Party and Building Trades Council.

Michelle Prettyman: A teacher, she supports city-wide street cleaning and would like to expand a forgivable loan program for those looking to open or expand a business.

Job Itzkowitz: The former leader of the Old City District and a Point Breeze resident, he would advocate for turning city-owned vacant lots into affordable housing, and he believes Philadelphia’s trash collection system should be updated with standardized containers.

Christopher Gladstone Booth: An educator and former federal government employee, Booth wants to encourage increased teacher diversity, reduce the city’s carbon footprint and promote Philadelphia’s history and culture.

Isaiah Thomas: A strong proponent of youth sports, he is aiming to be reelected to his second term as an at-large member. His “Driving Equality Bill” prohibited officers from conducting traffic stops for several minor non-moving violations. Thomas has a broad range of institutional and progressive support.

Republican At-Large

Frank Cristinzio: A lifelong resident of the Kensington area, he worked in manufacturing and in maintenance for the Philadelphia Parking Authority before launching his campaign. He is a supporter of charter schools and opposes safe injection sites. Cristinzio is backed by the local GOP.

Gary Grisafi: A Northeast Philadelphia musician and music teacher, he told the Committee of Seventy that his priorities would be strengthening criminal laws and reducing taxes. Grisafi has also been endorsed by the Republican Party.

Drew Murray: He previously served as president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and believes it is time for “law and order” to return to the city. He also opposes the soda tax and wants to decrease the wage tax. Murray is supported by the party.

Jim Hasher: He runs a real estate business and owns Jimmy’s Timeout Sports Pub in Torresdale. He would push to crack down on catalytic converter thefts, illegal guns, dirt bikes and ATVs. The local GOP has endorsed Hasher.

Mary Jane Kelly: A hostess at Citizens Bank Park and former court clerk, she lives in the Far Northeast. She is part of the Philadelphia Republican Party’s slate of candidates.

Sam Oropeza: A former professional boxer and MMA fighter, he would prioritize safer neighborhoods, quality education and accountability. He told the Committee of Seventy that he’s a political outsider not afraid to upset party politics.

7th District – Democratic

Quetcy Lozada: She won a special election last year after being nominated by party leaders once Maria Quiñones Sánchez resigned to run for mayor. Previously, she was employed by Esperanza and served in Sanchez’s council office.

Andrés Celin: A former social worker and community organizer, he wants to increase access to housing and treatment for drug users. Celin also supports zoning rules that mandate developers include affordable housing.

8th District – Democratic

Seth Anderson-Oberman: A labor organizer, he approaches violence from a public health lens; wants lawmakers to prioritize affordable housing; and believes community should be involved in shaping development projects. He is endorsed by the Working Families Party, along with other progressive groups.

Cindy Bass: She is seeking a fourth term and eyeing the chamber’s top job as council president. If reelected, Bass wants to focus on public safety, keeping property taxes affordable for residents, and reducing blight. She is endorsed by the local Democratic Party and Transport Workers Local 234, among others.

9th District – Democratic

Yvette Young: Currently director of facilities for the Pottsgrove School District, her platform includes repairing aging public schools, addressing environmental concerns and investing in community policing.

Anthony Phillips: Party leadership chose him as their nominee in last year’s special election to replace Cherelle Parker. A youth advocate, Phillips believes in increasing educational opportunities and rebuilding commercial corridors. The local Democratic Party is supporting his campaign.

James Williams: He co-founded the Uptown Standard community newspaper and previously worked in Councilmember David Oh’s office. He wants to hold gun shops accountable for illegal sales and ban ski masks. Williams also advocates for installing water filtration systems in schools and businesses.

Uncontested races

Incumbent Democrat Mark Squilla is unopposed in the 1st District, and no Republican will be on the ballot in November. The same is true for Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) and Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District), all of whom are running for reelection.

Several candidates filed to run in the North Philadelphia-based 5th District to replace retiring Council President Darrell Clarke, but only Jeffrey “Jay” Young Jr., an attorney and Democratic committeeperson, survived petition challenges.

Mike Driscoll, of the 6th District, is looking to be elected to his first full term after winning a special election last year to replace Bobby Henon, who was convicted on federal corruption charges. He will be unopposed in the primary and general elections.

Longtime Republican Councilmember Brian O’Neil (10th District) is seeking reelection. In November, he will face Democrat Gary Masino, leader of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19.