Get-out-the-vote effort aims to tap Philly’s Asian Pacific Island voting bloc for Korean-American mayoral candidate Helen Gym

By: - May 16, 2023 5:05 pm

With Helen Gym, a Korean-American woman, among the front runners in Philadelphia’s tight mayoral primary, an organization that aims to empower Asian Pacific Islanders politically is doubling down on a multi-language get-out-the-vote effort in Gym’s support.

Philadelphia Democratic mayoral candidate Helen Gym.

The Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance said that with Gym in a statistical tie among mayoral candidates, its effort will mobilize a “powerful and often untapped bloc” of voters. 

Gym, a former city councilmember, held a slight advantage among the four leading candidates in the seven-way race with 21%, according to an Emerson College/PHL 17 poll of 600 likely Philadelphia Democratic voters last week. 

Former Councilmember Cherelle Parker and former city Controller Rebecca Rhynhard each had 18%. Allan Domb, also a former city councilmember, had 10%, according to the poll, which has a 3.9% margin of error.

“From her time as a public school teacher to when she helped students organize to stop anti-Asian violence in their school, Helen has always shown up for our communities. Now we’re showing up for her,” APIPA Executive Director Mohan Seshadri said. 

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, people of Asian and Pacific Island ethnicities accounted for 8.2% of Philadelphia’s roughly 1.6 million residents.

To back Gym’s election, APIPA said it has 90 volunteers who speak 10 languages working at 45 polling places across the city.

The group said it has mailed 73,000 political fliers to reach Asian-American voters in English and non-English languages, and has made about 170,000 phone calls to voters including 3,300 in languages other than English.

APIPA said it has also run a paid digital ad campaign in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese that has reached more than 364,000 people. Its volunteers have also knocked on nearly 27,000 doors as part of a grassroots campaign reaching voters at home. 

The winner of the Democratic primary will likely go on to face former city councilmember David Oh, who is the only Republican candidate, and is also Korean-American.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.