Republicans Are Switching Parties to Vote Against Helen Gym

Plus, Jeff Brown has a problem and Center City is, apparently, "remarkably safe." So y'all can come on back.

helen gym, a candidate for mayor of philadelphia

Philadelphia mayoral candidate Helen Gym (Getty Images)

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Philadelphia Republicans Are Switching Parties to Vote Against Helen Gym

If you’re new to town, I should tell you that Philadelphia — all of Pennsylvania, actually — has closed primaries. That means that a Republican can only vote for a Republican candidate and a Democrat a Democratic candidate. And since the only Republican candidate is David Oh, whose chances of winning the general election in November are, to put it gently, not great, and since many Republicans are downright terrified at the prospect of Helen Gym as mayor, some Republicans are switching parties ahead of the primary before the May 1st deadline to do so.

Conservative columnist Christine Flowers is one of the longtime GOP’ers leading this charge over social media. Flowers, a Center City resident, has been saying things like this on Twitter: “I suggest that all Republicans re-register as Democrats to vote in the upcoming primary. It is legal, and it is strategic brilliance.” “My city. I won’t let the radicals with their ‘hate the cops’ and culture war craziness destroy it. I implore you to do so as well. First step. Vote against progressives wherever they appear on the ballot.” “Since Pennsylvania insists on keeping closed primaries, you do what you have to do to save your city.”

Flowers submitted her application to switch parties on Monday. I spoke with two other right-of-right Philadelphians, both of whom declined to use their names for publication, who have already switched. In talking to Flowers and these two other voters, you get the sense that they are as afraid of Gym in the mayor’s office as many on the left are of Trump retaking the Oval. Terms like “radical leftist” and “socialist” are used. (I’ll leave the other descriptors for social media.)

According to the City Commissioners office, 615 Republicans have thus far switched to Democrat this year, while another 657 third-party voters have made that jump. There’s no telling how many have done that specifically to vote against Gym. Maybe some of them are just done with the Party of Lincoln once and for all. And Republicans (well, temporarily former Republicans) will need a lot of anti-Gym voters to make a difference. Though given that this primary is likely to have some pretty thin margins thanks to the large field of candidates, they might not need that many.

So who will the anti-Gym camp pick at the polls? Flowers hasn’t decided yet, though she has floated former city controller Rebecca Rhynhart and ShopRite mogul Jeff Brown on Twitter. “We will coalesce behind the strongest remaining opponent,” Flowers told me. “Helen’s base is deep, but narrow.”

Meanwhile, Oh has been pleading with voters to stay put and back his (unopposed) candidacy in the primary.

Switching parties to vote in a primary isn’t exactly uncommon. Sometimes, people do it to try to elect the weakest candidate to take on their original party’s candidate (they switch back right after the primary) in November’s general. Then there are those who, like Flowers, just do not want a certain candidate to win, a lesser of various evils scenario. And then there’s the protest vote. In 2016, I changed my affiliation briefly to Republican so that I could vote against Donald Trump and for John Kasich in the Pennsylvania primary. Did it affect the outcome? No. But it did make me feel just a hair better.

Of course, none of this party-switching would be necessary if Pennsylvania would, like most states, hold open primaries. There’s an effort underway to get the state to do just that. It’s an uphill battle.

A spokesperson for Helen Gym for Mayor declined to comment for this article.

Speaking of Jeff Brown …

I try not to overwhelm you with municipal election news, given that the primary is still more than a month away. But I can’t leave this one alone.

On Monday, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge told a dark-money super PAC that had been spending lots of money on Jeff Brown to immediately halt all expenditures. Why? The Philadelphia Ethics Board has been investigating Brown’s relationship with said super PAC and alleges in court documents that Brown has been illegally coordinating with the super PAC to get around those pesky campaign finance laws. The board also says that the super PAC ignored multiple warnings. A Brown spokesperson has denied any wrongdoing and calls the whole thing “nonsense.”

How much of a blow this is to Brown’s campaign finances remains to be seen. But it’s certainly not a good look.

Larry Krasner Needs Your Help

Embattled Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and other law enforcement officials convened at North Philadelphia’s Holy Nation Baptist Church on Monday to ask for the public’s help in apprehending nine murder suspects, with some of the crimes dating back to 2018. The details are pretty grisly, including one man who allegedly beat a four-year-old to death. You can read the full list here.

Who the Heck Robs the Seaport Museum?

Police are looking for two masked individuals who robbed Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum. I’m guessing a Renoir at the Barnes was too advanced for these clowns.

Headlines We Weren’t Expecting to Read Today

“Center City Is ‘Remarkably Safe'”… But that’s certainly good news! Now as for the rest of Philadelphia, maybe we can work on that.

By the Numbers …

$285,000: Amount Philly’s controversial sheriff Rochelle Bilal attempted to raise her $136,083 salary to before she was told she couldn’t do that thanks to a cap on raises for elected officials that I’m glad exists. (Also, the mayor makes $240,000.)

3: Challengers Bilal faces in the primary, including lawyer Michael Untermeyer, who triggered the “millionaire’s provision” under Philly’s campaign finance laws when he put at least $250,000 of his own money into his campaign coffer earlier this year.

12: Restaurants participating in Africatown Restaurant Week in Southwest Philadelphia.

Also 12: Runs the Phillies won by in Monday’s game against the Marlins.

0.17%: Shrinkage of Pennsylvania’s population from 2020 to 2022. Philadelphia had the biggest dip of all the counties in the region, with a decline of 2.1%. Bucks and Delaware counties each lost 0.2% while Montgomery County saw an increase of 0.9% and Chester County jumped 2.1%.

Philly Sports Desk contributor Sandy Hingston is on break this week. And, therefore, so is the Sports Desk.