The Brief: The 5 Council At-Large Candidates With the Best Signatures Game

Plus, is Milton Street really an Independent?

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

A candidate has the opportunity to flex some muscle while collecting signatures for nominating petitions.

You only need to gather 1,000 legit signatures to get on the May 19th primary ballot for citywide office — but if a candidate amasses significantly more than that, they can theoretically inoculate themselves from a legal challenge and show the city that they’ve got a good ground operation. (Again, at least in theory. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady led the pack in signatures among mayoral candidates during the 2007 campaign, only to lose in the primary.)

March 17th is the deadline to file a legal challenge against a candidate over their nominating petitions. We told you how many signatures the mayoral hopefuls collected. What about the candidates in the second-most interesting race in town, the Democratic City Council At-Large tussle?

These five candidates gathered the most signatures, according to an unofficial count by the City Commissioners’ office:

  • Ed Neilson (incumbent): 10,399. That’s really solid. For the sake of comparison, mayoral candidate Jim Kenney collected 12,167 signatures. And it’s no wonder: Among the incumbents, Neilson is viewed as one of the more vulnerable because he’s only been on City Council since last year.
  • Blondell Reynolds Brown (incumbent): 6,791. Brown also has a reason to show off. She, too, is seen as a somewhat vulnerable incumbent.
  • Sherrie Cohen (challenger): 6,584. Cohen is the daughter of the late progressive Councilman David Cohen. She finished sixth in the 2011 primary election for Democratic City Council At-Large. (Five candidates advance to the general election.)
  • Helen Gym (challenger): 6,118. Gym is an education activist who has the support of the Philadelphia teachers union.
  • Frank Rizzo, Jr. (challenger): 4,975. The name’s still golden.

Also, the five candidates above each collected more signatures than four of the six Democratic mayoral candidates. Crazy, right?

A few notable signature totals in other down-ballot races: Of the candidates for Democratic City Commissioner, incumbent (and former City Commission chairwoman) Stephanie Singer had the fewest signatures: 1,485. Lisa Deeley, a former City Council staffer with labor support, had the most in that race: 9,002.

Of the candidates for 2nd District Councilperson, incumbent Kenyatta Johnson bested developer Ori Feibush with 7,417 signatures. Feibush had 3,785.

And Chris Sawyer, the anti-blight activist who runs, gathered more than 1,000 signatures for his campaign for Republican Sheriff — but just barely. He totaled 1,312.

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