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Photos: AL DÍA Archives and PHLCouncil/Flickr
They’re all but guaranteed to win in Nov.Photos: AL DÍA Archives and PHLCouncil/Flickr

History is on full display in Philadelphia's at-large City Council race

Incumbents Isaiah Thomas, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Jim Harrity and newcomers Rue Landau and Nina Ahmad won the Democratic nominations Tuesday, May 16.

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Philadelphia elected its first female and Black Mayor in former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker on Election Night, Tuesday, May 16, as well as its first openly LGBTQ+ Councilmember in Rue Landau, and first South Asian American lawmaker in Nina Ahmad to City Council. 

Confirmed Wednesday morning, Landau was one of two newcomers to win in the city’s at-large Council race alongside Ahmad, an immigrant from Bangladesh who after immigrating to the U.S., became a women’s rights advocate, developer, and former deputy mayor. 

The incumbents and party favorites, Isaiah Thomas and Katherine Gilmore Richardson also won their nominations, all but guaranteeing second terms in office. Thomas led the pack, followed by Gilmore Richardson, Landau, Ahmad, and then incumbent Councilmember Jim Harrity. 

Thomas and Gilmore Richardson were the first millennials elected to City Council in 2019. 

Like the Mayor’s race, the primary was competitive and had lots of candidates — 27 contenders. Only three were the winning incumbents, and none had served more than one term in City Hall. 

From the party’s progressive wing were Amanda McIllmurray and one of two Latina candidates Erika Almirón, who both came up short. Luz Colón, the other Latina in the at-Large candidate field, also fell short in her bid for a seat. For Almirón, this is her second loss after an unsuccessful city council bid in 2019.

Almirón, a first-generation Paraguayan American, and Colón, a Puerto Rican, were the two sole Latinas on this year’s ballot for an at-large City Council seat. 

As for the five nominees, they will more than likely come out victorious in the November general election due to Philly’s long-standing Democratic supermajority. 

Following the resignation of several councilmembers last fall, including Derek Green, Mayor-elect Parker, Allan Domb, Helen Gym, and David Oh, to run for Mayor, it left several holes in the city’s 17-member legislative body. 

Many saw the race as one that could determine how City Hall operates next year alongside the next mayor. 

For the city’s Republican at-Large hopefuls, Drew Murray, Frank Cristinzio, Jim Hasher, and Gary Grisafi — four of the party’s five endorsed candidates — won their respective nominations in the six-way race, as of Wednesday morning. 

Real estate agent and former MMA fighter Sam Oropeza came in last place and was the only GOP candidate to not make it out of the primary and only non-party endorsed candidate. 

Despite a few organizational endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police and Temple Police Association, the Philly Republican Party did not embrace the newcomer and he would likely have advanced had he secured its endorsement. 

Landau, the longtime political organizer and civil rights attorney, is the former director of the City’s Fair Housing Commission and Commission on Human Relations. 

She fought for economic justice, access to affordable housing in Kensington and organizing to provide social services during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990s as an active member of ACT UP, Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) and Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!). 

She later went to law school and for more than a decade, worked as an attorney at Community Legal Services (CLS), helping thousands of low-income renters in the city avoid eviction. She kept families together, and successfully challenged government bureaucracies, including the city’s Housing Authority and the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

Ahmad is a former member of the National Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under President Barack Obama, previously ran for Auditor General in 2020, and was the first woman of color in state history to win the Democratic nomination for a statewide executive office as well as Lt. Governor in 2018. 

Harrity, a former aide to state Sen. Sharif Street, had been in the legislature for just six months after party leaders appointed him to fill the vacancy through a special election in November 2022. He garnered over 4,300 votes more than the sixth place candidate, former City Hall staffer Eryn Santamoor, followed by McIllmurray.

Despite Democrats’ success rate in general elections, the five GOP winners will face competition from the Working Families Party over the two-large seats reserved for minority parties. One of them was taken in the historic election of Councilmember Kendra Brooks in 2019. 

Brooks is currently seeking another term with running mate and pastor, Nicolas O’Rourke. 

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