The Interview: Melissa Murray Bailey, Philly's only Republican mayoral candidate
MEET MELISSA Murray Bailey. "Who?" you might ask. Bailey, 36, is the city's lone Republican candidate for mayor. She's relatively new to Philadelphia, having moved here with her husband and daughter, now 4, about three years ago.
MEET MELISSA Murray Bailey.
"Who?" you might ask.
Bailey, 36, is the city's lone Republican candidate for mayor. She's relatively new to Philadelphia, having moved here with her husband and daughter, now 4, about three years ago.
She's pretty much an outsider running for mayor in a politically insidery town - a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a roughly 7-to-1 ratio.
If elected in November, Bailey would not only be the first Republican to be elected mayor in more than 60 years, she would be the first woman to hold the job - ever.
So Bailey, by nature, would have to be either incredibly optimistic or a glutton for punishment. "I'm kind of a glass-half-full kind of person," she acknowledged.
Bailey, a longtime Democrat who grew up in South Jersey, is the daughter of two public school teachers. Her dad was a leader of the local teachers union.
She graduated from the University of Maryland, majoring in biological engineering, and later got a job with Universum, a company that helps employers brand themselves and attract workers. Before moving here, she lived in Singapore, where she launched Universum's Asia headquarters.
She got the idea to run for mayor this past November and changed her voter registration from Democrat to Republican earlier this year. Daily News reporter Wendy Ruderman caught up with her this week in Society Hill, where she lives.
Q You could have settled anywhere. Why Philadelphia?
We had been living abroad for almost seven years or so at that point. And we said it's time for us to settle down and decide where we want to have our life.
And as soon as we said that, we knew that Philadelphia was the place that we were going to do that. I just loved the neighborhood and family environment of it. Also the potential for the city.
I thought that we could be a part of transforming the city into a place where families want to stay and raise their kids not just from strollers but also to teenagers.
Q When did the idea dawn on you, like, "Hey I'm going to run for mayor."
In the fall. It was my daughter's birthday and we were walking home with her friend and her friend's parents and we were talking about the upcoming election and how important it was and what it means for this city, and none of us were kind of inspired by what the possibilities looked like.
Q What do you think about the people who right off the bat say you don't have a chance in hell of winning?
I just ask them to listen to what I have to say and what I stand for and to make their decision based on that.
It's really easy to dismiss new ideas, but I think if you are not happy with where the city is or if you are kind of teetering on whether you are going to move out or stay, then you owe it to yourself to listen and see if there is [someone] different out there that could make a change for the better.
Q What does it mean to be a Republican in Philadelphia in 2015?
For me it's about being financially conservative, but being also open to every type of Philadelphian, which a lot of times people don't associate with the Republican Party.
The key thing for me is about really being respectful of the taxpayers' dollars. We can't keep going back to people and asking them for more money. Then people are going to be driven out of the city because they can't afford to raise their families here.
We have to make hard decisions that may be at first unpopular. We can't just hope that we are going to grow ourselves out of the pension deficit.
Q Are you willing to take on the powerful unions that drive a lot of government decisions that ultimately cost taxpayers a lot of money?
It's amazing how much unions can influence an election, as well as other really deep-pocketed interest groups. That's another good thing about me being an outsider. I don't have any of those kind of alliances and relationships.
I'm not beholden to anyone except for the citizens of Philadelphia. So if they choose to elect me, they'll be my special interest group. It will be because of them that I'm elected.
Q Do you think you'll have the money to run a campaign? Or can you overcome not having the money to run?
Isn't that sad? I mean, that's the first question a lot of people have asked me, "How much money do you have? Are you independently wealthy? Who is going to be backing you?"
I think that prevents people with a lot of really good ideas form putting themselves forward. It doesn't cost any money to knock on doors and to meet people and to go to community events and to listen.
Q Tell me something about yourself that people may not know, like a hobby or something you like to do.
I was a very active supporter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and CHOP. When we lived in D.C., my husband and I were "wish granters" for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. We would go into families with children who had life-threatening illnesses and talk to the child about, "If you had one wish, what would it be?"
Q Why those charities? Have you lost a child or know someone who has lost a child to illness?
No, but my younger sister had Burkitt's lymphoma. She's fine now, but it was really . . . [Bailey cries, wipes away tears.] She was in eighth grade and I was in college and I always felt like I didn't do enough back then to help her. So now anything I can do for other sick children, I will do.