Who are Philly’s influential Black clergy backing in the city’s mayoral race?

An announcement is expected this spring, a senior leader said this week

By: - January 28, 2023 6:30 am
Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall (Adobe Stock/The Philadelphia Gay News)

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA — The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity expects to make its endorsement for the city’s top office sometime in April, according to the group’s president the Rev. Robert Collier Sr.

The Rev. Robert Collier Sr., president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, speaks during an event on Thursday, 1/26/23 in West Philadelphia (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

The religious leader made his comments at a breakfast meeting on Thursday with the group’s members and the mayoral candidates at Bleu Brook seafood restaurant on Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia. About 60 people attended including members, journalists, campaign workers and supporters.

“We will have [candidate] interviews in February,” Collier said. “Once we have the interviews we will make a decision as who we will endorse and we will make the announcement in a press conference.”

The candidates who attended included former City Council members Derek Green, Allan Domb, Maria Quiñones Sánchez and Cherelle Parker. Also attending were state Rep. Amen Brown, D-Philadelphia; Jeff Brown, owner of several supermarkets, James DeLeon, a retired municipal court judge; and Rebecca Rhynhart, former city controller, and the Rev. Warren Bloom. Former Council member Helen Gym, appeared via video.

The candidates were each given an opportunity to make a four-minute introduction and then took questions from moderators Thera Martin, who handles public relations for the Black Clergy, and the Rev. Terrance Griffith, a past president of the Black Clergy.

About 10 questions were from Black Clergy members and the rest came from the audience.

On the question whether Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw should be replaced, only Green said yes.

All of the other candidates said they would either need time to speak with Outlaw or do a more thorough review of her tenure after they are elected. But Bloom said emphatically he would retain her, “but give her more support.”

Jeff Brown said he was leaning towards not retaining Outlaw, but he wanted to speak with her first.

On the issue of how to deal with gun violence, most of the candidates said they would issue some type of emergency action, except DeLeon, who touted his own plan that would involve court participation.

Many of the candidates said the long-term answer to gun violence is improved education, better jobs, more opportunities and investments in underserved areas.

“It certainly gives a perspective as to who has a firm grasp on public policy issues, who has some innovative ideals,” said Randy Robinson, a partner in the consulting firm of M/R Strategies, LLC.

To be sure, each of the candidates used their introduction remarks to repeat the themes they have used often on the campaign trail about why voters should elect them.

For example, Green touted his experience as a council member, business person, assistant district attorney and small business owner. DeLeon said his 30-year career as a judge allowed him to witness criminal justice issues first hand. Rhynhart said her career as City Controller and budget director gives her a unique perspective on city finances.

Bloom cited his experience as an education and jobs advocate, committee person and minister.

And grocer Jeff Brown discussed he how he has hired about 60,000 people, placing them in union jobs with benefits.

Parker and Sanchez, said they both grew up poor, but became successful and understand the plight of the city’s neediest.

“I am a first-generation college graduate in my family and I don’t need to read a white paper about poverty,” Parker said.

Real estate broker Domb, said despite growing up poor, he built a multimillion business from scratch.

In her video, Gym spoke about her activism and working with the Black Clergy on issues while in Council that helped people get out of poverty.

Amen Brown, who arrived late for the event, used part of his time to address a scathing newspaper article on Thursday, that reported on numerous criminal charges, debts and dubious business dealings.

“I’m not running from my past,” Brown said. “Where I come from has made me the man I am today.”

And Brown told the crowd that he was working to satisfy all his obligations.

“Each and every election is critical, and I am so glad that our organization takes the time to review candidates in question, during each election cycle,” Collier said. “We learned something about our candidates that we didn’t know before I think we have a deeper appreciation of what this job really entails.”

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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