(Philadelphia Tribune photo)
The high-stakes 2022 midterm elections might be little less than a month away, but in Philadelphia, the city’s political and chattering classes already have their eyes on 2023 and the race for the Mayor’s Office.
Incumbent Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney will leave office next year. And as our friends at The Trace report, the city’s staggering and tragic gun violence epidemic has ‘supercharged’ the very crowded field of candidates looking to succeed him.
Through Oct. 5, a total of 1,839 people had been shot in the state’s largest city this year, 383 of them fatally, The Trace reported, citing city data.
A judge has squashed one of Kenney’s efforts to stem the bloodshed, blocking an executive order that would have banned guns from city recreational centers, playgrounds, and pools, The Trace’s Mensah M. Dean reported.
Four members of City Council have resigned to seek the city’s top spot, an extraordinary number, according to The Trace. By law, members of the city’s legislative body must resign before they can mount a campaign.
“I guess they’re just frustrated that they can’t get anything done being in Council,” former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the longtime boss of the city’s Democratic Party, said. “They think they can do more as mayor.”
“If I was running for mayor – which I’ve been asked to but I am not – I would focus on crime, crime, crime,” Brady added. “Everybody wants to have nice schools. Everybody wants to have job opportunities. But if the city isn’t safe, what purpose is it? The city’s got to be safe.”
While Republicans have accused Democrats nationwide of seeking to defund the police, Philadelphia, under Kenney, has gone in the opposite direction.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s budget has grown by $30 million to nearly $800 million. Anti-violence programs are getting a $208 million injection, according to The Trace.
“It’s great that they want to run for mayor,” Kenney told The Trace, referring to the pols jockeying to succeed him, “because then they have to put up their ideas on how to make things different, actually different.”
In September, three members of City Council, Derek Green, Cherelle Parker, and Maria Quinones Sanchez, all resigned to enter the race.
A fourth, Councilmember Alan Domb, quit in August to launch a citywide listening tour.
City Councilmember Cindy Bass will reportedly make up her mind by the end of the year. And incumbent City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart and grocery chain owner Jeff Brown may yet enter the race, according to The Trace.
Rhynhart has been vocal in her calls to contain the gun violence across the city, saying in 2020 that she believed the city could be more effective and spend less money addressing the issue at the same time.
Councilmember Helen Gym, who is “currently not a candidate,” said the next mayor needs to micro-target the most violent areas of the city, The Trace reported.
“We need on-the-ground violence interrupters and conflict mediators because 80 percent of shootings do not end in an arrest or conviction,” Gym said, according to The Trace.
Quinones Sanchez, who has lost young family members to drugs and gun violence, told The Trace that experience has informed her views.
“People talk about it from the data perspective and from the abstract. But this is what I live every single day,” she said. “I’ve done all that I can as a City Council member. Ultimately, policy and enforcement is decided by the mayor, and in this particular case, we have disagreed with their strategy, and I join with the residents of Kensington in saying, ‘We can’t keep doing this. It is unfair, it’s discriminatory.’”
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