How Our Movement Did in the Primary Election

The 2019 primary election demonstrated the growing power of the Party’s progressive wing as Philly Neighborhood Networks-endorsed candidates retained two At-Large Council seats and put up strong challenges in other Council and City Commissioner races while, at the same time, wresting three Common Pleas judgeships from Party control.

Note that there were 28 candidates for Council at-Large and 13 for City Commissioner and the majority of them were progressives. Now imagine that power brought to bear in a less crowded field and you can begin to appreciate the sea change that has occurred in political organizing in Philadelphia over the past few elections.

To be clear, the death grip of political bosses is now being openly challenged by progressives – at the election booth, at Ward meetings and in City Hall. We knocked doors to reach out to nearly 12,000 voters for Tuesday’s Primary Election. Let’s look at what we accomplished:

Foremost was the overpowering strength of Helen Gym’s vote total, establishing her as the first place victor in the Council at-Large race. In an election that selects the top five vote-getters, Helen’s vote was more than twice that of the fifth place finisher and almost two-thirds greater than her closest competitor, who poured tens of thousands of his own dollars into the race. Clearly, Helen’s popularity is based on her steadfast leadership in advancing economic and social justice in the City, and her win is a mandate for that agenda.

Furthermore, our endorsed candidate Derek Green secured re-nomination to his at-Large seat where he has made our campaign to create a Public Bank a legislative priority. PNN also played a direct role in the nomination of three new Democratic Common Pleas Court judges – Jennifer Schultz, Tiffany Palmer, and Anthony Kyriakakis- the first two opposed by the Party – and one Superior Court judge, Amanda Green-Hawkins.  

Some of our progressive champions – all first time candidates with no Party backing – came up just short of victory – Justin DiBerardinis and Erika Almiron for City Council at-Large, and Kahlil Williams and Jen Devor for City Commissioner. In areas where PNN had a field presence, all of our candidates for these positions were winners!

A few additional notes add to the story of our growing strength as a movement. Although PNN wasn’t involved directly in his re-nomination, Mayor Jim Kenney beat back the all-out effort of Big Soda to defeat him, and other insurgents beat entrenched incumbents in low-visibility but high-importance row office races, for Sheriff and Register of Wills. 

And in a remarkable District Council race, Jamie Gauthier, a leader of the socially responsible business movement, defeated perhaps the most entrenched machine politician in the City, one that had occupied the third District Council seat for 45 years.

These wins demonstrate that progressive values resonate with voters. And the power of our movement is shown not merely in election results, but also in our progress in moving issues we care about into public consciousness and into the campaign platforms of candidates. 

PNN is an active participant in the Alliance for a Just Philadelphia, and helped to create a far-reaching agenda of progressive issues that we challenged the at-Large Council candidates to support. 

That included one that we have played the leading role in advancing – the creation of a Public Bank for the City. Many of you have already signed our petition and on Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer recognized PNN’s role in advancing Public Banking in our city, and touted it as one of three issues of importance to gain positive attention during the campaign. (Scroll down to the second item for the comments about public banking.)

The hard work of progressives like you has helped to lay the foundation of real progressive leadership in our City. Of course, there is plenty still to be done to accomplish our goals. Starting this Summer, we will be bird-dogging Council and the Mayor to fulfill the promises they made to advance the people’s agenda.  

As always, we will look to you for support as we build the infrastructure, internally and with our allies, to put our champions into office and to keep them there. We look forward to working with you to make our values political realities.

Thanks for your support!

The Team at Philly Neighborhood Networks

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Margaret Lenzi

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