Terry Gillen Exited the Mayoral Race Friday. What Does It Mean?

Nothing good.

Terry Gillen

Terry Gillen announced Friday she was getting out of the mayor’s race, departing the field after it became clear she couldn’t raise enough money to compete. How will her exit change the race? What does it say about the nature of the 2015 mayoral race?

Six things.

1. The race will be less interesting and less edifying without Gillen. She was always a longshot to win, but Gillen had a chance to play a meaningful role in the race nonetheless. I expected her to be a force on the debate stage. I expected her to call out her opponents. I expected her to draw on her intellect and very hands-on experience in city government to challenge the assumptions and blithe assertions that candidates routinely make (and that Gillen has little tolerance for). Now she can’t, not really, and the race will be worse for it.

2. Lynne Abraham’s entry into the race made Gillen’s bid far more difficult. If she were the only woman in the race, Gillen may have had more success with fundraising, and a better chance at rallying the city’s powerful women around her candidacy. With Abraham in the race, Gillen was overshadowed, and, I expect, lost out on donations that may otherwise have kept her in the race.

3. Nutter fatigue is a real and serious condition. Philadelphians may be wrong about Mayor Nutter, and they may only have themselves to blame for their disappointment with his administration, but that wasn’t much help for Gillen, who is a longtime Nutter confidante. One of the reasons Gillen struggled to generate much excitement is because even Nutter’s core supporters are unenthusiastic about the notion of four-more-years, and many assumed that’s what Gillen would offer, right down to her less-than-toasty-warm relationship with City Council.

4. Center City progressives are sitting this election out, at least so far. Granted, Gillen is not the sort of candidate to set voters’ hearts fluttering. But she is a longtime resident of Center City, a former Center City ward leader, and a key figure in the reinvention of the Navy Yard, to cite just a few of the qualities that would theoretically make her appealing to Center City voters. It wasn’t enough, and one wonders where Center City progressives will turn now.

5. Gillen’s exit will most help Abraham and Ken Trujillo, but their gains are likely minimal. Yes, Abraham can now say she is the only woman in the race, and the only serious female candidate for the office since 1999. And Trujillo will probably pick up a chunk of Gillen’s Center City supporters. But Gillen’s base was tiny (she quit, after all).

6. Like just about everywhere else. the central importance of money is still stifling participation in Philadelphia elections despite the city’s relatively robust limits on campaign fundraising. Gillen couldn’t raise enough scratch, and that made her bid untenable. At-large City Councilman Jim Kenney also sounds like he will sit the mayoral election out, not because of fundraising concerns per se, but because city law would require him to resign his council seat and he cannot afford the loss of salary. Running for mayor in this town is awfully, awfully hard without a lot of big dollar donors at your back or independent wealth.