Bass pulls ahead in money for District 8 council seat

by Tom Beck
Posted 5/8/23

In a statement emailed to the Local Friday, Bass repeated the quote she provided for a previous Local story: “It’s not an auction; it’s an election.”

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Bass pulls ahead in money for District 8 council seat


After being outraised by her primary challenger in the campaign finance reporting period that ended March 27, Councilmember Cindy Bass has turned the tables. In the most recent reporting period, which began March 28 and ended Monday, Bass outraised opponent Seth Anderson-Oberman by a $132,665.00 to $84,110.23 margin, according to campaign finance reports released on Friday.

In a statement emailed to the Local Friday, Bass repeated the quote she provided for a previous Local story: “It’s not an auction; it’s an election.”

“Elections are about the voters, my record of service, and my record of interacting and engaging with the community,” she continued. “That being said, I am confident that the voters will respond positively to my 30+ years of service and engagement in our community.”

In this round of fundraising, as in previous months, a large part of Bass’ contributions have come from people in the development industry, including Glenn Falso of Main Street Development and his wife Michele (who each gave $3,100); Sam Blake of Blake Development ($3,100); Swanson Street Associates, which is affiliated with the Goldenberg Group ($2,500); and Max and Zach Frankel of Frankel Enterprises ($500 each). All four have ongoing projects within the 8th district.

The Anderson-Oberman campaign, meanwhile, said that campaign finance reports reflect “the greater struggle in this race” between special interests and the communities in the 8th district.

“Our grassroots campaign is funded by our neighbors,” Anderson-Oberman said in a statement to the Local. “Councilmember Bass's campaign is funded by real estate developers and a portion of the Democratic Party establishment.”

The Anderson-Oberman campaign has previously pledged not to take money from “big developers” or special interests. Opponents have said that refusing developer money can be an unnecessarily divisive policy that leaves important stakeholders out of the process.

Other notable contributors to Bass include Comcast, which donated $2,000, and various current and former members of City Council. Bass received $5,000 donations from PACS affiliated with Curtis Jones, Mark Squilla and Kenyatta Johnson, all of which she’ll be contending against for the title of council president if she is re-elected. Bass also received contributions from PACs associated with councilmembers Katherine Gilmore Richardson ($3,000), Jamie Gauthier ($3,000) and former councilmember Maria Quinones-Sanchez ($2,500). 

Anderson-Oberman’s theme of collecting money from unions also continued in the report. He accepted donations from SEIU of Pennsylvania ($6,000), the Faculty Federation of the Community College of Philadelphia ($1,700), and the Temple Association of University Professionals ($1,250). He also accepted a $5,000 donation from the Pennsylvania Working Families Party, which has also already endorsed him. 

According to Committee of Seventy Police Director Patrick Christmas, it’s not uncommon for fellow elected officials and special interest groups to make donations to an incumbent. One reason, he said, is that not doing so could have consequences for political relationships after the election.

“It helps to have allies for their legislative priorities,” Christmas said. “There’s always a degree of incumbent support in elections.”

So much money in the bank, such little time

As of the end of the reporting period, Bass had about $175,000 on hand with just 15 days before the election. The Anderson-Oberman campaign had about $95,000.

Larry Ceisler, a Democratic media consultant and longtime Mt. Airy resident, said that candidates will often engage in “gamesmanship,” where they’ll have money committed to spend, but won’t actually spend it until the day after the campaign finance deadline so the report makes it appear as if they have more money on hand.

“There’s a psychology where candidates want to show they have a lot of money in the bank,” Ceisler told the Local in a phone interview Friday. “I guarantee you they have plans for that money and they are spending it as we speak right now.”

Sometimes, campaigns wait to spend money on get-out-the-vote material like campaign literature until the weeks just before the race.

“And a lot of money doesn’t get spent until the end where a lot of people don’t even know who they’re going to vote for,” Ceisler said. 

Money is important in any race, Christmas said, but “it’s still only one factor.”

“Especially in a local district council race, a lot of this is going to depend on turnout and boots on the ground,” said Christmas. “Knocking on doors, handing out literature and talking to voters – most of that activity is done by volunteers.”

The final stretch

According to Ceisler, history shows that Bass’ stronghold is in the 8th district’s eastern wards, which are located closer to Broad Street in North Philadelphia. The outcome of the race, he argued, will depend upon turnout in those areas, which could be affected by the mayor’s race – especially Cherelle Parker’s performance in those neighborhoods. 

“I think Cindy is probably depending on Cherelle to bring out Black voters in that part of the district….to overcome whatever Seth does in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill,” he said.