Helen Gym leads final thrust into election day
A star-studded line-up of national progressive figures lauded Gym as the possible, incoming progressive mayor.
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A line stretching down the block of Franklin Music Hall on Sunday, May 14, anticipated Helen Gym’s final campaign Get Out To Vote blowout two days before voters are due to cast their ballot in the Philly mayoral primary election.
An hour after doors opened, a venue manager told AL DÍA the initial headcount had been 735 attendees, but by the time remarks began, over 1,200 people from all corners of the city donning Gym apparel and flashing her campaign signs filled most parts of the hall.
The campaign said it was the largest rally held in the last days of the cycle, competing with multiple candidates attempting to do the same.
“In some ways, I give a high five to the people of Philly because they’re building momentum around this multiracial, cross-sector coalition around the vision that Helen Gym has articulated for the city,” said Maurice Mitchell, the Working Families Party’s national director, who was among a group of progressive firebrands who came to the city to support Gym in the final stretch.
Other names drawn by the enthusiasm around Gym’s campaign in Philly include U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, both of whom were featured speakers at Gym’s rally.
From organizing to electability
This year’s mayoral race spotlights the ability of progressives to foster electability within the city’s Democratic party, backed by the WFP, as they evolve from a movement focused on community organizing to governing and embedding their political agenda within City Hall.
State Senator Nikil Saval, whose own campaign was inspired by the rise of Sanders, complimented Gym for her “salient” organizing strength that led to a successful City Council at-Large bid in 2016, and a close mayoral race.
During this cycle, Gym’s organizing abilities were front and center, from fueling a formidable ground game to her policy agenda, and even making national headlines that discussed her $10 billion investment plan into the public school system and corrective action on public safety.
“We’re so close to pulling this through on Tuesday,” said City Councilmember at-Large Kendra Brooks, City Council’s first member from a third party. “I’ve been asking for this energy,” she said.
Despite criticisms from either end of the two-party system, progressives scored upset election wins in major cities, including Los Angeles by electing Karen Bass, of Chicago through mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, and Michelle Wu of Boston.
“We’ve been very careful about the conditions where we can have a progressive mayor in Helen. What we saw in Chicago is vindication of that political project and that voter coalition, what we’re seeing here is further vindication,” said Mitchell.
“And look, we’re going to win some elections and lose some elections, but if you take a step back, what we’re doing is clearly winning…and it’s gravitating towards everyday Philadelphians,” he said.
The latest polls conducted by Emerson College, only the second independent poll to have circulated this cycle, found that Gym is among the topmost competitive candidate in the crowded pool alongside Rebecca Rhynhart, Cherelle Parker, and Allan Domb.
Still, a sizeable chunk of undecided voters are keeping candidates and observers in suspense, since turnout could sway favorable results in any given direction.
In a city that grapples with turnout, the results could come down to just a handful of votes.
Campaigns know this all too well and are bringing out political artillery to drive a canvassing wave down to the seconds before polls close.
Sanders, who delivered his well-known zingers about the billionaire class and healthcare for all, also took seconds of his speech to remind younger voters that while turnout has made strides, more can be accomplished.
“Here’s a not-so-good news,” Sanders told the raucous crowd. “Your generation does not vote at a high enough level. We’re making progress but we’ve got to do better,” he said.
Part of the plan to seemingly replicate queues at poll sites is to bring out major progressive players, like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, two national politicians that set the tone for local contenders.
Once the event wrapped up, people who gathered to witness the speakers said the event made clear who the progressive in the race was.