As midnight approached, Bass' lead would be cut to just two percentage points, re-energizing the now-thinned-out crowd at Seth Anderson-Oberman's campaign event.
With a narrow tiny vote lead and 10 percent of votes left to be counted, Incumbent Cindy Bass declared herself the winner of the 8th District Council race late yesterday.
"This was a hard-fought race, but I am pleased to have won the Democratic primary for city council in the 8th District,” she said in a statement released late Wednesday. “We need to be diligent about ensuring that every last vote is counted, but based on our analysis of the divisions remaining we are confident in the outcome.”
As of midday on Thursday, Bass led her challenger, Seth Anderson-Oberman, by a razor-thin margin of just over 300 votes – about one percentage point – with just 10% of the votes left to count. The current tally is 50.6% to 49.4%.
Anderson-Oberman sent an email out to supporters at 1:27 p.m. Thursday that said the race was still "too close to call."
"We are continuing to work hard in conjunction with the Philadelphia County Board of Elections to ensure that EVERY vote is counted, in service to a fair and accurate result," the email continued.
According to the City Commissioners election returns website, Bass won every part of the district except the three northernmost wards - Chestnut Hill’s 9th ward, Mt. Airy’s 22nd ward and Germantown’s 59th ward. All those neighborhoods have trended in Anderson-Oberman’s favor, especially Chestnut Hill, which Anderson-Oberman won 72% to 28%. Mt. Airy wasn’t quite as lopsided, with Anderson-Oberman taking 56% of the vote so far to Bass’ 44%. In the 59th ward, Anderson-Oberman won only by a hair: 51% to 49%.
But Bass had strong showings in the Nicetown-Tioga’s 11th and 13th wards, where she won 70% and 68% of the vote respectively. She also won North Philadelphia’s 17th ward by a 76% to 24% margin. In the 12th ward, which encompasses the Lower Germantown/Penn-Knox area, Bass was competitive, losing only by a 52% to 48% margin.
“Due to this razor thin margin, it is extraordinarily important for the results to be closely monitored and for the Board of Elections to work with the public in an open and transparent manner to ensure confidence in our process,” the Anderson-Oberman campaign said in a statement. “We are honored and humbled by the tremendous amount of support we have received from community members in this election.”
David Thornburgh, chair of Open Primaries PA, senior advisor to the Committee of Seventy and a Chestnut Hill resident, called Anderson-Oberman’s performance “monumental” – even if he doesn’t end up winning. Despite challenger Jamie Gauthier unseating incumbent Jannie Blackwell in West Philadelphia’s third councilmanic district last council cycle, Thornburgh said, it has historically been exceptionally difficult for challengers to unseat incumbents.
“Maybe this tells us something about things being different than they used to be,” Thornburgh said in a phone call. “It’s still monumental that a challenger who didn’t start off with any name recognition and didn’t run before is this close. It would be quite something if he pulls it off.”
Election night started off looking bleak for the Anderson-Oberman campaign, which started off down 20 percentage points as mail-in ballots were counted first. As the incumbent Bass expanded her lead, Anderson-Oberman encouraged supporters to go home and get sleep if they needed to, and attendees started trickling out.
“We don’t know what the results will be just yet,” he told his supporters. “The numbers are still coming in.”
But as midnight approached, Bass’ lead was cut to just two percentage points, re-energizing the thinned-out crowd.
Anderson-Oberman, an experienced union organizer, used the time to encourage his people to be proud of the political momentum they built, and keep building a movement, whatever the outcome of this particular race.
“Whatever the result is, I know that the relationships that we’re building over these months going forward are going to transform this district, and they’re going to transform the city,” Anderson-Oberman told the crowd. “We know that another Philadelphia is possible.”
On Tuesday morning, Bass canceled her own watch party, which was scheduled to be held at Jacob's Northwest in Mt. Airy, in order to attend the festivities for Cherelle Parker, who won the Democratic nomination for mayor. Bass has not yet responded to the Local’s request for comment.
The Anderson-Oberman campaign had only booked the Victorian Banquet Hall in Germantown till midnight, so around 12:30 a.m. he and his team ended that party to sit and wait for news at its campaign headquarters down the road in Mt. Airy.
According to a spokesperson for the City Commissioner’s office, delay in vote counting is normal.
“This is a typical thing you see after election day,” spokesperson Nick Custodio said in a phone call with the Local. “It’s not out of the ordinary.”
According to Custodio, there is no vote threshold that would trigger an automatic recount for a city-level race.