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Meet the 3 newcomer primary winners likely joining City Council

The three Democratic primary winners for Council at-large seats are all but guaranteed to join Council in 2020.

Katherine Gilmore Richardson (left) and Isaiah Thomas (right) Democratic candidates for Philadelphia City Council At-large, speak at a forum hosted by the Alliance for a Just Philadelphia at Congregation Rodeph Shalom March 24, 2019.
Katherine Gilmore Richardson (left) and Isaiah Thomas (right) Democratic candidates for Philadelphia City Council At-large, speak at a forum hosted by the Alliance for a Just Philadelphia at Congregation Rodeph Shalom March 24, 2019.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

It was quite a primary Tuesday, with a record number of candidates running for City Council at large. In the end, three new faces emerged victorious.

In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 7-1, they are likely to win in November. All are 40 or younger, which will reduce the average age on Council, currently 58.

Here’s a look at the candidates, their path to victory, and what they said they’d prioritize on the job in interviews with the Inquirer Editorial Board or reporters.

Jamie Gauthier, 40, Cedar Park


Trained as an urban planner, Gauthier has worked in affordable housing, commercial corridor revitalization, and small business development. She is the former head of the Sustainable Business Network and the Fairmount Park Conservancy. Gauthier grew up in Kingsessing, moved away, and returned about a decade ago to raise her sons here.

Path to victory

She unseated Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, who has represented the 3rd District for 27 years. Gauthier built a broad base of support and prompted high turnout in University City and bordering neighborhoods. She also benefited from the support of the political action committee Philadelphia 3.0. No Republican is running against her in November.

First piece of legislation you’d introduce?

“Ending the 10-year tax abatement, to ensure we have additional, vital funding for our schools. This could also help to stem gentrification in the city and in the 3rd District.”

Biggest issue facing the city?

“Poverty. Thirty-three percent of residents in the 3rd District are living in poverty, a rate that is higher than our city’s average.”

What’s the most important policy enacted in the last four years?

“Gaining local control of our school board.”

Who’s your political mentor?

“My father, Leon Williams, is my political mentor. He is an intelligent, independent-minded community activist who taught me what it means to serve community and challenge the status quo.”

Katherine Gilmore Richardson, 35, Wynnefield


Gilmore Richardson worked for 11 years for Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who is retiring at the end of the year and backed Gilmore Richardson’s campaign. She is a mother of three and prioritized education and addressing poverty.

Path to victory

Gilmore Richardson received the key backing of the city Democratic Party, including the powerful Northwest coalition. She was one of the candidates with the most endorsements, including from labor. Later in the race, she also benefited from the support of a political action committee that aired TV ads for her and three other candidates.

First piece of legislation she’d introduce?

“I would champion a city/School District partnership to create a pipeline to city jobs for high school students who attend career/trade and technical schools.”

What’s the biggest issue facing the city?

“Poverty. Twenty-six percent of people in Philadelphia are living in poverty. We must end generational poverty by investing in our education system, investing in small and middle-market businesses and neighborhood commercial corridors to spur job creation, increase public safety, and criminal justice reform.”

What’s the most important policy enacted in the last four years?

“The $100 million bond proposal for Philadelphia’s existing housing stock that significantly reduced the backlog of low-income homeowners who received grants for housing repairs. The second part of the bond proposal, ‘Restore, Repair, Renew,’ resulted in the creation of a low-interest loan program that helps residents fix older homes. This policy helps low- and middle-income Philadelphians, living in mostly middle neighborhoods, keep, preserve, and stay in their homes.”

Who’s your political mentor?

Blondell Reynolds Brown.

Isaiah Thomas, 34, Oak Lane


Thomas is executive director of Philadelphia Freedom Schools and head basketball coach at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter. He worked for then-City Controller Alan Butkovitz from 2015 to 2018. Thomas is a graduate of Frankford High School who ran twice before for City Council.

Path to victory

Thomas was the second-highest vote-getter in the at-large race, despite a lower ballot position in a field of 28. He was endorsed by the Democratic City Committee and had more labor endorsements than anyone else. Thomas also had the experience to adjust campaign tactics, having come close to victory in 2015 and having run in 2011.

First piece of legislation he’d introduce?

“My priority will be issues related to our young people. I want to fight for changes in our curriculum — that’s not legislation, Council can’t do that directly, but it needs to happen. I want to make sure we’re providing more out-of-school programs for our children. On the legislation side, I think we should revisit resign-to-run. In the post-Trump era world of politics, we need people able to go to D.C. and fight for us in Harrisburg.”

What’s the biggest issue facing the city?

“I think the quality of life of children, conditions they live in. I don’t want to just say schools, because poverty and experiences are more than just eight hours a day and 10 months out of the year.”

What’s the most important policy enacted in the last four years?

“Local control [of schools]. I know we didn’t do that as a city — that was more of a state decision, with the city signing off — but my instinct would say local control, as far as the most important.”

Who’s your political mentor?

“The person I look up to mostly definitely is Henry Nicholas [president, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees Local 1199c]. He’s an icon, he’s nothing but an inspiration. And then Isabella Fitzgerald, my ward leader and state representative.”