About the Event

KYW Newsradio and the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia presented a conversation about the upcoming Mayoral Primary and City Council election. Ian Bush led the conversation with local reporters and experts to help Philadelphians understand the impact of the political, social, and economic issues on our city and region.

At the event, attendees also had the chance to welcome a group of International Exchange Visitors from Argentina's Fundacion Universitaria del Rio de la Plata, a nonprofit organization for young Argentine professionals to promote non-biased, non-partisan dialogue on political, economic, and social issues. 

The first topic discussed by the panel was the absence of reliable polling information on the state of the Democratic primary. Since popularity and notoriety tend to have a snowball effect on a candidate’s momentum, the absence of clear frontrunners means that the race is still open to any candidate. The panel commented on an internal poll conducted by Jeff Brown’s supporters showing him and Helen Gym in the lead. The panelists questioned how accurate that poll was and noted that it was likely released because his campaign believed presenting the race as a binary decision would benefit Brown. The panel also commented on the gap in campaign spending between grassroots and self-funded campaigns and the issue of split voting in such a crowded primary, both of which might incentivize campaign finance reform or a switch to ranked-choice voting.

 The panel then compared the campaigns of the two self-funded candidates: Jeff Brown and Allan Domb. Jeff Brown’s campaign has portrayed him as a political outsider who can bring the city’s troubles to heel by running it like his business, while Allan Domb has emphasized the extensive time he spent on city council gaining experience in governance before running for mayor. Endorsements have played a major role in campaigns, yet the AFL-CIO refrained from endorsing a candidate because of the split in its members’ preferences. Lauren Mayk elaborated that union endorsements are often decided by small margins and their members can still vote for a different candidate than their union’s endorsed choice. Looking at the Lenfest Institute’s poll on the most important issues to Philadelphians and the focus on crime and education, Ms. Mayk lamented that many of the candidates lack noticeably different proposals on solving these issues. Pat Loeb elaborated that the candidates’ attitudes toward District Attorney Larry Krasner, particularly whether they planned to work with him or try to circumvent him, is one of the few distinguishing features on the topic of law enforcement.

Turning to the matter of the resign-to-run rule, Ms. Loeb opined that it has done away with some long-standing and experienced members of the City Council, removing them from public life if they lose. Regardless, Philadelphians appear in favor of it because repeal referendums have narrowly upheld the rule. Ms. Mayk then examined the Republican candidate and considered how David Oh has built a surprisingly strong and diverse constituency in a Democrat-dominated city. On the state-wide level, Pennsylvania’s government in Harrisburg is as blue as it has ever been, and many Democrats are hopeful that this situation will lead to additional school funding and an end to preemption on local gun laws.

The audience Q&A section started with a question about whether Allan Domb’s real estate holdings are a conflict of interest. The panelists described his plan to sell the properties to his son, and questioned whether that would really resolve the conflict, but commented that at least the candidate acknowledged it as a problem. An audience member asked whether the election will be consequential. Ms. Loeb explained her feeling that Mayor Kenney’s administration appears broken by the weight of the pandemic and unrest and that she sees the election as a chance to reset to normality and move forward. On the topic of former Mayor Nutter’s and former Mayor Street’s endorsement of Rebecca Rhynhart, Ms. Mayk commented that Mayor Nutter’s name may draw more attention than the candidate’s and thus not help her, and that Mayor Street being on her payroll raises some questions.

When asked about whether the candidate forums are helpful to voters, the panelists stated that many of them run together, but that each forum’s thematic focus does help draw out substantive information. An attendee asked about whether the unusually crowded primary signals the health or fragmentation of the local Democratic Party and the panelists said it depends on who wins: if the Democratic Party comes together again and unifies behind the winner. Since the party is so dominant in the city, it is inevitable that its primaries are not monolithic.

In the audience was a group from Argentina through the International Visitor Leadership Exchange, and one member of that group asked about the influence of social media on the race. Ms. Mayk responded that Helen Gym seems to be leveraging it the most. However, the smaller scale of the election means that on-the-ground campaigns through neighborhoods are more influential than in national races. Another visitor commented on Argentina’s mandatory voting laws and asked how Philadelphia’s contrasting low turnout might influence the results.  The panelists answered that candidates with the largest bases tend to benefit from lower turnout and that drawing on a relatively small number of infrequent voters can make a major difference.

The last audience question was about a straw poll taken on the popularity of Gym and whether she can feasibly fund her proposed initiatives. Ms. Loeb responded that the city is already struggling with its budget and that state funding is the main hope for offsetting increased expenditure. Ms. Mayk described her interview with Gym and said that candidates are often “squishy” on hard questions like budget specifics.

About the Panelists

  • Lauren Mayk, Reporter, NBC10 News
  • Pat Loeb, City Hall Bureau Chief, KYW Newsradio

About the Moderator

  • Ian Bush, Anchor, KYW Newsradio