The 2019 primary election is on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
Prior to each election, the Inquirer’s Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom, identifies the races where an endorsement can help readers understand where candidates stand on issues and why we think voters should support (or not support) a particular candidate. Then, the Board hosts meetings with candidates running in contended races.
We think all elections are important and try to cover as many as we can. In elections like the upcoming municipal primary, with many races and candidates, we have to make the hard decision to limit our endorsements to highly competitive races. That means that unfortunately, we did not have the capacity to endorse in this year’s judicial races or in the race for the Register of Wills.
We take this job seriously and spend time researching the candidates’ backgrounds through the work of our newsroom colleagues as well as through our own reporting. This cycle, we sent out a candidate questionnaire to candidates for mayor, City Council, and City Commissioner. We asked candidates about themselves and asked for their stance on the issues we think are most important for their constituents.
We conducted in person meeting with candidates for Mayor, City Council, and sheriff. The meetings are “on the record,” which means anything discussed can be reported. Political reporters and editors are invited to participate, but they do not weigh in on the endorsement process. We participated in a City Commissioner candidate forum to hear the candidates in that race in their own words.
In total, we interviewed 43 candidates and received questionnaires from 68 candidates (including some who were ultimately removed from the ballot). Our endorsement process can be summarized as:
Mayor: We sent a questionnaire to the three Democrats and one Republican running. All participated. We met with the three Democrats running since that is the only contested primary.
City Council: We sent a questionnaire to all candidates in contested races — 35 at-large and 10 district candidates. We received completed questionnaires from 31 at-large and nine district candidates. We had either in-person or phone meetings with 28 at-large and nine district candidates.
City Commissioners: We sent a questionnaire to all 13 candidates — 10 responded. We didn’t conduct in-person or phone interviews. We attended a forum where eight of the candidates participated in a robust discussion of issues.
Sheriff: We invited all four candidates to an in-person interview. Three accepted the invitation.
Ballot questions: We researched the questions including background calls with various stakeholders.
After the meetings, the Board deliberates. Based on our research, the questionnaires, our discussions with candidates, and positions we’ve taken on issues in previous editorials, the Board makes a decision about which candidates to endorse.
Sometimes, it’s an easy choice and sometimes there’s a lot of debate amongst our Board members. Sometimes, too, the choice is hard; when we prefer “none of the above,” or as happened in some races these year, when we like more candidates than we get to pick. But we believe any choice is better than sitting out an election. We take care when writing each endorsement to walk you through our decision-making process so you know why we choose one candidate over another. Here, we’ve rounded up all our endorsements for the 2019 primary elections.
Philadelphia is moving in the right direction — though given the magnitude of our problems, change often doesn’t come quickly or dramatically enough. Kenney’s challenge in his second term will be to increase the magnitude of impact that comes from his policies. Also, it wouldn’t kill him to look excited to be the mayor, even when he is not dressed like Buddy the Elf.
City Council At-Large
The highly-qualified field of 35 at-large candidates is notable for its youth, its diversity, and its direction, leaning decidedly progressive. What’s also notable is how many highly qualified candidates are running. That made our endorsements all the more difficult; for our final selections, we strove for a balance of voices, backgrounds and experience.
Katherine Gilmore Richardson
City Council District
Five of the 10 District seats are contested in the upcoming primary.
The best option for sheriff is Malika Rahman — a former deputy sheriff who understand how the office works and can lead efforts to clean up its work. In her time at the sheriff’s office, Rahman, 32, worked as a Community Relations Officer, giving her unique insight into the needs of the community into what Philadelphians actually need from the sheriff.
Of the 13 Democrats in the race, Kahlil Williams, an attorney, has a passion for election law. Prior to law school, Williams worked both in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Brennan Center for Justice, where he focused on voter disenfranchisement. Williams has the combination of knowledge, passion, and experience to improve voting in Philadelphia.
Jen Devor, has been working on increasing voter turnout in the city for the last few years. She believes that the commissioner’s office could be used to conduct research, share data, and lobby the state for reform, specifically to focus on a constitutional amendment that would allow no-excuse absentee ballots and changing the deadlines for absentee ballots in the election code.
On May 21, voters will also vote on four proposed charter changes. Here are our recommendations:
Gender neutral titles for City Council: Yes.
Making the Office of Immigrant and Cultural Affairs Permanent: Yes.
$15-an-hour minimum wage: Yes.
Traffic cops: Yes.
For more on ballot questions: A pro and con for each to help you decide how to vote
In Philadelphia, voters will select judicial candidates for Municipal and Common Pleas Courts. We have not interviewed candidates, so we are making no endorsements in these races. However, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a rigorous vetting process, and we recommend you review their findings at judges.philadelphiabar.org
Their “highly recommended” candidates for Common Pleas court include James C. Crumlish, Chris Hall, Anthony Kyriakakis, and Tiffany Palmer.
The May 21 primary will not only help decide the composition of City Council and the mayor’s and other offices. Voters will also be signaling their views on key issues facing the city. Primary School is a series from the Editorial Board designed to take a deeper look at some of these issues and some of the lesser known offices on the ballot.