Cherelle Parker will win the Philadelphia Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, The Associated Press has projected, a victory that propels her to the general election and slows recent progressive momentum in big cities.
Parker, a former City Council member, beat out several competitive rivals in what turned out to be a very tight race among Democrats.
In the quest to become the City of Brotherly Love’s 100th mayor, Parker defeated nearly a half dozen serious candidates, including Helen Gym, a high-profile progressive, and Allan Domb, who also previously served on the City Council; Rebecca Rhynhart, who worked as controller; and businessman Jeff Brown.
Parker will go on to compete against the Republican nominee in November, but Philadelphia’s Democrat-heavy landscape strongly tilts the chances of winning in her favor.
Independent estimates also tallied the total spending in the tens of millions of dollars, creating national visibility.
The race was close for quite a while, and the little polling available showed a contest largely within the margin of error, making it hard to predict the outcome before Parker — a former elected official and a moderate — was ultimately announced the winner.
Parker won endorsements from top trade unions, community leaders and the group Philadelphians For Our Future PA. She’s also backed by Democratic Reps. Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle.
She also highlighted her identity as a Black woman as a way to distinguish herself from the male mayors who previously served in the position.
“99 mayors. Not one looks like you or me,” she said in a 30-second ad titled, “Not One.”
The results are an indication of centrism’s enduring power, even in some cities considered traditionally liberal. It also gives fuel to the argument that the party needs to move towards the middle to appeal to the most undecided voters.
While the race indeed showed multiple candidates in close contention, Parker ultimately carved out a lane on the intersection of crime and education. She proposed that students remain in school for the entire calendar year, hopeful that an extended schedule would better prepare them to enter the workforce and become more well-rounded through extracurricular activities.
She also pledged to take a harder-line approach to public safety, telling voters that if elected, she would promote a “constitutional stop-and-frisk” policy to deter crime.
The posturing won over Philadelphians, interrupting a series of wins her more progressive counterparts have scored in Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston to be the cities’ top executives.
While many moderates and undecided voters liked Parker’s policies, progressives wanted to take the city in a different direction, a contrast that could become clearer as Democrats look to address how best to win the swing state next year.
A fall victory would also likely draw more attention to Parker’s agenda in 2024, when Pennsylvania becomes critical to both parties’ map.