The Mayoral Election Cram Sheet


You probably know this, but the primary elections for Mayor and city council are Tuesday.

We know, we know. You were totally, going to brush up on who to vote for over the weekend. But the weather was mostly awesome, and that new Mad Max movie came out. Next thing you knew, Game of Thrones was on, and well… the imaginary politics of a fantasy world have serious edge of Philly’ mayoral race.

Tuesday is important, because whoever wins the Democratic primary is, for better or for worse, the heavy favorite to win in November.

So we’ve put together this cram sheet. This isn’t focused on policy, because to be honest, there aren’t huge differences between the candidates in terms of what they believe. So we’ve asked two guys who know the candidates well to tell us something about their personalities.

David Thornburgh is executive director of the Committee of Seventy, the city’s longtime nonprofit elections watchdog that has become a solid source for non-partisan elections information.

Larry Ceisler is a longtime observer of Philadelphia politics who handles issue advocacy and grassroots campaign management for nonprofits, businesses and political coalitions.

Jim Kenney

This longtime member of city council Is the heavy frontrunner, according to a poll conducted by The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, and NBC 10. He’s racked up endorsements from labor unions and other key constituencies, but some voters worry that he’ll owe too much to union leaders who backed him. He led the fight to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and end city cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Thornburgh: “He’s a product of South Philadelphia politics,and shown himself to be interested in pushing some controversial measures.”

Ceisler: “He’s had a very stunning and welcome personality change. I don’t know if it had more to do with running for mayor or leaving city council. it’s nice to see person happy.”

Anthony Hardy Williams

This longtime state Senator and son of groundbreaking Philadelphia politician Hardy Williams is a strong advocate for charter schools and educational choice. A trio of Main Line financial executives have backed him in their effort to bring more choice to the city’s school system. That backing has caused alarm among some voters.

Thornburgh: “He strikes me as being measured in his approach to things. He’s hard to rattle.”

Ceisler: “Tony’s always a person who is very much in control. Very articulate. He carries himself in a very confident and self assured manner.”

Lynne Abraham

The lone female candidate is Philadelphia’s former district attorney. She has a reputation for being “one tough cookie.” She likely has the most experience as a manager, comes with decades of experience in city government. Some progressives oppose her candidacy because of her use of the death penalty as a prosecutor.

Thornburgh: “Dogged. She showed herself to have a wide range of experience.”

Ceisler: “Feisty, energetic. I think in her case if she wins, age is not a factor.”

Nelson Diaz

The sole Latino candidate brings a compelling rags-to-riches story and the strongest resume in the pack. Diaz, who was raised in a Harlem housing project has sat on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. He has served as a judge and as General Counsel to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. His campaign has struggled to gain traction, and he is considered a longshot.

Thornburgh: “He has a depth of experience, and a very compelling personal narrative. he’s a classic, ‘rise from circumstances candidate.'”

Ceisler: “Even though he was a long shot, he seemed to relish the race and talking about issues. when he saw the people getting into the race and said ‘Why not me?’”

Doug Oliver

A product of the city’s Germantown section, this energetic rising star credits attendance at the Milton Hershey School as being a crucial second chance in his life. A former Press Secretary for Mayor Michael Nutter, he’s considered a longshot. But observers say this race isn’t the last the city has heard of Doug Oliver.

Thornburgh: “He’s shown himself to be a very effective communicator.”

Ceisler: “Doug gained the most from this race. He’s cool, articulate and the one candidate with charisma. He’s the one candidate that after people met him, people say ‘I want to vote for him.’”

More from our Sister Sites