AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Cherelle Parker, a former Pennsylvania state representative and former member of the Philadelphia City Council, is expected to be Philadelphia's next mayor after winning Tuesday's Democratic primary. She would be the city's first female mayor. Tom MacDonald of member station WHYY joins us now to break down yesterday's vote. Hey, Tom.
TOM MACDONALD, BYLINE: Hi.
CHANG: OK, so there were nine candidates in the race going into Tuesday's primary, with four of them in a statistical dead heat, right? What happened yesterday?
MACDONALD: Well, turnout was low, and it all became an effort to bring out the votes. Cherelle Parker, the winner of the contest, had the Democratic Party behind her in the form of workers who hit the streets to knock on the doors and encourage people to come to the polls. Philadelphia political veteran Bill Greenlee describes a victory as one that came as a result of a great deal of grassroots campaigning coupled with being the only viable Black woman in a race who addressed the issues plaguing the city - especially poverty and public safety in a city that's had over 500 homicides in the past two years.
BILL GREENLEE: Cherelle was straightforward enough to say, look, I think we need more police. You know, and I know progressive - some progressives don't like that, but I think that resonated with people, resonated with, I guess what I would say, the regular neighborhood people, you know, which is where she got her votes.
CHANG: Well, as we just heard, I mean, some people are saying that this is a setback for progressives since Parker wants to beef up the police force. She favors stop-and-frisk, which is a pretty controversial policing tactic. What happened to the candidates that had support from progressives?
MACDONALD: Well, there were two candidates that fell into that moderate and progressive category - Helen Gym finished third, Rebecca Rhynhart, who came in second. Gym had the high-profile progressives behind her. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came out over the weekend for a big rally - 35,000 people. She also had the National Teachers Union backing her and the local teachers' unions because her roots were in education activists. The other two progressive candidates - those two split the vote, and if all the votes they shared were put together, they would have won the contest. Outgoing Mayor Jim Kenney explained the victory for Parker as not a loss for progressives.
JIM KENNEY: I think that Cherelle has a record and experience with people, that she represents an area of the city that is active voting and that Black women especially wanted to see a Black woman as mayor, and I think they came out and showed that. And I'm very happy about it.
CHANG: Well, even though this was just a primary election, can you just explain why the winner, Cherelle Parker, is expected to be the next mayor of Philadelphia?
MACDONALD: This was a primary in name only. There is a challenger to Parker. Council member David Oh will run against her as a Republican. He says he's not the average member of the GOP.
DAVID OH: I am in the center and have always been here. I did not sign a letter to the mayor to defund the police. I did not vote to reduce the police budget. Now, I don't mind at all reducing the police budget, but I'd have to have a reason why.
MACDONALD: But Democrats have a 7-to-1 voter registration edge in the city, and there hasn't been a Republican mayor since the '50s. Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters this afternoon, there isn't any chance Parker's going to lose.
CHANG: OK, so what has Parker said about her win so far?
MACDONALD: Actually, nothing - nothing in-person. She was hospitalized last night with complications from a dental issue. She was sent home this morning and has been silent with the exception of a statement from her campaign which said she'll be back out talking to residents in the near future.
CHANG: That is Tom MacDonald of member station WHYY. Thank you, Tom.
MACDONALD: Thank you.
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