Only 24% of Eligible Philadelphians Voted for Mayor — Which Is Not That Bad, Comparatively

A dog at a polling place in Center City Philadelphia

A doggy at a Philadelphia polling place in 2015. | Photo by Dan McQuade

A new report found that only 24 percent of eligible Philadelphians voted for mayor in the most recent election. This sounds depressing, until you compare us to other large American cities: Of the 30 largest cities in the country, Philadelphia ranks 12th.

It’s not top-10, but not we’re just ahead of Nashville (23.8 percent) and Denver (22.6 percent) and right behind Detroit (25.1 percent). Among East Coast cities, Philly ranks behind only behind 9th-ranked Boston (29.7 percent).

Portland has the highest percent of eligible voters casting ballots in mayoral elections, with 59.4 percent turnout in the most recent election. Then again, Portland’s version of “Umbrella Man” is a beloved institution instead of piece of public art so hated it’s eventually sold and taken off the streets. So maybe we don’t want to pay too much attention to Portland. Read more »

Philadelphia Voter Turnout Was Bad, But It Could Have Been Worse

APTOPIX America Votes

We all know voter turnout in Philadelphia has been bad — like historically bad.

The 27 percent of voters who turned out in a competitive primary election this spring was the lowest total in the city’s modern history for an election of that kind.

Prognosticators assumed turnout would be worse — perhaps much worse — in Tuesday’s election, given that the marquee mayoral race was a non-contest, with Democrat Jim Kenney facing overmatched GOP nominee Melissa Murray Bailey in a city where registered Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats 7-1.

And turnout was bad. It looks like 25.5 percent of registered Philadelphia voters cast ballots. But it could have been worse, and many were expecting that it would be.

Four years ago, when Mayor Nutter was re-elected, just 20 percent of registered voters showed up. Nearly 50,000 more voters turned out Tuesday then did in the city’s 2007 general election. Read more »

Jim Kenney: I’ll Keep Riding the Subway As Mayor

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney. | Photo by Holly Otterbein

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney. | Photo by Holly Otterbein

Jim Kenney, a South Philadelphia native who vowed to expand pre-K on the campaign trail, held his first press conference as mayor-elect in a public elementary school at 12th and Federal streets. Very fitting, right? He talked about his transition team, and reiterated his plan to fight poverty, improve access to early education, and help ex-cons get back on their feet.

Events like these are weird. In the weeks after a big political race, we journalists go to every single one of them, hoping the newly elected official will unveil a new initiative or at least make an off-the-cuff remark that will, in some small way, indicate what type of leader they’ll be. No clue is too small to pore over.

At Andrew Jackson Elementary School, Kenney didn’t make any big announcements. He didn’t say who any of his top aides would be. He didn’t reveal who would be in charge of his transition team. But that doesn’t mean the event was devoid of news. Here are five fascinating moments from Kenney’s first post-election presser that we’re chewing on: Read more »

Jim Kenney Elected Mayor — Now What?

Outgoing Philadelphia Michael Nutter, top, greets and former City Councilman Jim Kenney, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at the Relish restaurant in Philadelphia.

Outgoing Philadelphia Michael Nutter greets Jim Kenney, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at Relish.

(Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Check back for updates.)

Jim Kenney — the firefighter’s son, former Vince Fumo-protege and the surprising champion of an emerging progressive political coalition — was elected Philadelphia’s 99th mayor today.

In Kenney, the city has chosen a passionate, intelligent and empathic man who oozes affection for Philadelphia and its people. At his best, Kenney fuses the innovation and restlessness of new Philadelphia with the strength, resilience and character of old Philadelphia.

But Philadelphians are also getting a mayor who was never really tested in his audition for the grueling job ahead. His primary opponents were a feckless bunch, and all Kenney had to do to win was avoid big mistakes. Kenney has yet to articulate a clear vision for his administration — he didn’t have to to win.

Kenney’s latest contest with Melissa Murray Bailey shed even less light on Kenney’s plans. Bailey was a virtual unknown, and Democrats outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia by about 7-1. The predictable result was a Kenney romp. Bailey claimed just over 13 percent of the vote, with nearly 98 percent of precincts reporting. That’s a paltry total even by the standards of Philadelphia GOP mayoral nominees not-named-Sam-Katz.

Read more »

The No-Bullshit Philadelphia Election Guide

It was over before it started. That’s what a whole lot of people are saying about the Nov. 3rd election. And we won’t lie to you: In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1, the candidates who have a “D” next to their names are highly favored to win in most races.

But “most” doesn’t mean all. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court race is extremely competitive and it could not have higher stakes. Future judges may very well rule on everything from gun control to voter ID to education funding. Another election where your vote could make a huge difference is the City Council at-large race, which could well determine the role and relevance of the city’s Republican party for years to come.

So here’s your ultimate Philadelphia election guide. It’ll look different than any other voter’s guide you’ve seen. It’s a brutally honest, easy-to-read explanation of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. We tell it like it is. Here are your choices.

The offices:

Read more »

5 Things You Need To Know About the Last Mayoral Debate


Can you believe Election Day is just a week-and-a-half from today? The final debate between Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Bailey was recorded at 6ABC’s headquarters on Friday afternoon. It will air on the station and stream on at 11 a.m. Sunday. TV reporters Tamala EdwardsIlia Garcia and Jim Gardner were the moderators. Here are five takeaways from the event:

1. Kenney and Bailey disagree on the question of whether the police department should publicly release the names of cops who shoot civilians.

After the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report on the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of deadly force, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced in July that it would begin releasing the names of cops who shoot civilians within 72 hours of the incident. The Fraternal Order of Police immediately came out in opposition to the new policy.

Kenney said during the debate that he supports releasing officers’ names within the 72-hour period. He said he respects the FOP, but that “people need to know what happened.” The FOP has endorsed Kenney for mayor.

Bailey, meanwhile, said, “I don’t support that we just full-throttle release the names.” She called for a “balance” between the need to inform the public and protect police officers’ lives, and said she supported “body cameras for all of our officers, so there is no question about what happened.”
Read more »

Who Will Replace the Irreplaceable Charles Ramsey?

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, right, and his likely replacement, First Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., salute the family of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III on Friday, March 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, right, and his likely replacement, First Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., salute the family of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III on Friday, March 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

How do you replace someone like Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey? The man is far and away the most popular public official in Philadelphia, an exceptionally gifted communicator, a native Chicagoan who somehow intrinsically got and loved Philly and, oh yeah, arguably the best big city police chief in the nation.

Of the 1,000,002 decisions Mayor Michael Nutter has made these past eight years, hiring Ramsey may have been the single best one.

But when Nutter steps down, we now know Ramsey will as well.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now, really. Publicly, Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney — who, barring a meteor strike on his house, will win the November election — has said that the job is Ramsey’s as long as he wants it. Remember, way back in the mayoral primary, when Anthony Williams set his already-flailing campaign on fire by attacking Ramsey and proclaiming he’d sack him? Kenney’s campaign was simultaneously releasing artfully worded statements that said a Mayor Kenney would “welcome” Ramsey, but also hinted at the possibility Ramsey might well be moving on: “Jim has always praised Commissioner Ramsey’s leadership and repeatedly stated that if the Commissioner’s national profile didn’t take him elsewhere that Jim would welcome him in his administration”

It turns out the “take him elsewhere” bit was the important part. It seems that Kenney, like Williams, wants his own commissioner. There are plenty of ways to make that clear without publicly insulting Ramsey, and Kenney has made it clear enough. Read more »

5 Takeaways From Monday’s Mayoral Debate


It’s hard to tell most days, but Philadelphia’s mayoral election is just around the corner. On Monday night, Democrat Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Bailey duked it out during a debate at WHYY’s headquarters. The Independent candidates were not invited. Reporters Katie Colaneri and Kevin McCorry moderated the event. Here are five takeaways from it:

1. Both candidates were pretty short on specifics sometimes.

There were a few moments during the debate when I had a flashback to the beginning of the primary campaign, a time in which the mayoral race was totally devoid of any ideas or policy papers.

At WHYY on Monday, that eerie vagueness came rushing back to the election.

For instance, McCorry asked Kenney if he supported any policies that would be a hard sell in City Council, and if so, how he would persuade members to back them anyway. Kenney responded, “Well, that’s not something I’m going to discuss at the moment. There are things that are going to come up, and I’m not going to put out there ideas and issues in order for them to be analyzed and picked apart before I have a chance to implement them or move forward with them.”

So much for voters getting a chance to weigh in on candidates’ proposals, I guess. Bailey was fuzzy on some details, too. She promoted a plan to get every public school student reading by third grade, but she wouldn’t say exactly where she’d get the funding to do that. She simply said she had lots of ideas to save money. Likewise, she didn’t specify how to finance her plan to hire 500 extra police officers. Read more »

Insider: Tired of Philly Politics As Usual? Quit Complaining and Run For Office


From L to R: State Reps. Donna Bullock and Joanna McClinton. They ran for office. So should you. | Photos courtesy of Bullock’s and McClinton’s Facebook pages

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

During the past few years, I’ve noticed a recurring theme in the months following municipal elections. There are two conversations that occur constantly among plugged-in Philadelphians, which creates two distinct political groups. The first is what I like to refer to as the “Inspired Camp.”

The Inspired Camp observes X, Y or Z Candidate run an upstart campaign against the odds and beat the machine/establishment/tradition. That, in turn, inspires them to do the same. Since the primary election took place in May, I’ve heard dozens of aspiring candidates say they were excited by the election process and have since thought to themselves, “Hey, why not me? Why not now?” Call it the Barack Obama effect. From the outside, it looks easy: A candidate puts together a magical campaign, everything comes together, and victory is earned.

There’s a bench of young, civic-minded leaders that are being built in Philly right now. They want change, and they see themselves as the best chance to make that change happen. Some are doing the work on their own. Some are part of traditional political camps. But make no mistake about it: There will be a solid next generation of leaders.

Sheila Armstrong is on the ballot in November as an Independent candidate for City Council. Omar Woodard is pursuing the State Senate in the 3rd District. Kellan White has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the House of Representatives in the 200th. The same has been said about Abu Edwards in the 198th, Darren Lipscomb in the 192nd, and Francis Nelms in the 179th. Read more »

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