Northwest Philadelphia residents Cherelle Parker and Nina Ahmad won their primary races for mayor and city council at large.
Northwest Philadelphia residents Cherelle Parker and Nina Ahmad won their primary races for mayor and city council at large last Tuesday by comfortable margins and likely will head to City Hall next year.
Parker, who lives in West Oak Lane, won the Democratic primary for mayor in a field of nine candidates with nearly a third of the total vote. Ahmad, who lives in Mt. Airy, was the fourth top vote-getter for the party’s five assigned at-large seats.
Both candidates are expected to win their general election matchups in November, which would make Parker Philadelphia’s first female mayor and Ahmad the city’s first South Asian city councilmember.
In an emailed statement, Parker told the Local that she was “extremely proud to be Northwest born and Northwest bred,” and highlighted her time representing Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy in the State House as proof she knows the lay of the land.
“This is where I brought the Pennsylvania budget process to the people through annual budget briefings and town hall meetings, and I look forward to continuing that process as Mayor,” she said. “It was also here that I was able to hone my skills as an elected official to preserve and enhance residential neighborhoods, clean commercial corridors, and bolster local businesses.”
Ahmad told the Local in a phone interview that she, too, feels privileged to live in Mt. Airy, a neighborhood with “clean green streets” and a “very tight community where our neighbors are friends.”
“I don’t want to be just the Northwest councilperson – I will be the councilperson for the entire city,” she said, adding that “I’m very grateful to all of Philadelphia but in particular for the Northwest. Where I live, I would not exchange for any place.”
Historically, at-large candidates have often taken a particular interest when their home neighborhoods experience problems.
Chestnut Hill resident Shoshana Bricklin, who was a policy advisor to Ahmad’s campaign, said residents who’d given up on getting constituent service requests answered by district Councilmember Donna Reed Miller back in the 2000s would reach out to at-large Councilmember Frank Rizzo, Jr., who lived in Chestnut Hill,
“This is how Chestnut Hillers would get help when they didn’t feel like their district council people were being responsive,” she said.
David Thornburgh, chair of Open Primaries PA, senior advisor to the Committee of Seventy and a Chestnut Hill resident, said having an at-large councilmember from the neighborhood is like having “a bonus member of council beyond our district councilperson.”
“At-large seats are interesting because they’re almost like mini mayors because they’re elected by voters across the city,” he said. “Having a mayor from the Northwest is an extra added bonus.”
Jeff Duncan, the leader of Chestnut Hill’s 9th Democratic Ward, said Mt. Airy resident Derek Green was very helpful as an at-large council member before he resigned to run for Mayor.
“He was always very interested in hearing from us,” Duncan said.
A Northwest caucus in City Hall
Ties between the Northwest’s likely next councilmembers run deep. Parker won the endorsement of all three Northwest councilmembers – Curtis Jones, Jr. of the 4th district, Cindy Bass of the 8th district and Anthony Phillips of the 9th. She said she’s known Ahmad for a long time and supported her in every election she’s run.
“I am looking forward to working with all of them to deliver for the entire city,” she said. “I understand the importance of a strong working relationship with the legislature and know the hard work that district council members do for Philadelphia.”
Ahmad told the Local she was “excited” to have Parker as the next mayor and emphasized both her connections in the State House and the work she’s done in Council that’s been aimed at helping middle class Philadelphians.
“Her relationship with the state will be critical for bringing resources to Philadelphia, especially on the education spectrum,” Ahmad said. “We will benefit from those relationships she has.”
Ahmad plans for the general election
Despite what will likely be an easy path to victory in November’s general election, Ahmad said she expects to do a “fair amount” of campaigning.
She intends to prioritize the city’s health issues, which she feels are the root cause of a variety of the city’s issues – including gun violence, income inequality and access to healthy foods. Last Thursday, for instance, two days after the primary, she attended a peace walk to protest gun violence held by Rep. Stephen Kinsey’s office in Germantown.
At the march, she discussed the science behind why young men are prone to making decisions that lead to violence – decisions that can result in tragedy because of how easy it is to access a firearm.
“Before you turn 25, your brain is not fully developed, and you will make bad choices,” she said. “Let’s make sure those choices aren’t fatal.”
During her phone interview with the Local, Ahmad emphasized her science background, and said her approach to governing will be “evidence-based.”
“I’m already starting to collect data around the violence issue,” she said. “I’m interested in things like how much was invested in a program, what the results were, what can be done to improve it and if it’s worth investing in.”
According to Bricklin, Ahmad will be city council’s first scientist since Joe Coleman, a chemist who lived in Mt. Airy and represented the 8th District from 1972 to 1992.
“He was a scientist who was a groundbreaker because he thought it was important to be data-driven,” Bricklin said. “And I think that’s what Nina will do too.”