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Philly Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker has resigned and will run for mayor

Parker, the Democratic majority leader who represents Northwest Philadelphia, resigned Wednesday and will launch a campaign for mayor.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Cherelle Parker, who represents the city's 9th District, speaks to The Inquirer hours after resigning her seat on Council to launch a run for mayor.
Philadelphia City Councilmember Cherelle Parker, who represents the city's 9th District, speaks to The Inquirer hours after resigning her seat on Council to launch a run for mayor.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia City Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker, the Democratic majority leader who represents Northwest Philadelphia, resigned Wednesday and will launch a campaign for mayor.

Parker, a two-term Council member who previously spent a decade in the Pennsylvania state House, is the fourth member to resign in the last month and will join a crowded field of Democrats vying to replace term-limited Mayor Jim Kenney.

From a conference room in City Hall on Wednesday, Parker was emotional and solemn, saying in an interview with The Inquirer that she’s running for mayor because the city is “at a crossroads.”

“I’m gonna be the fixer, the doer, the get-it-done Cherelle. That’s who I’ve always been,” she said. “The city right now, it needs bold leadership.”

» READ MORE: The 2023 race for Philly mayor is starting. Meet the candidates who might run.

Parker, 49, a former high school English teacher who lives in Mount Airy, is the third member to resign this week. On Tuesday, Derek Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez resigned and launched mayoral campaigns. And last month, Allan Domb quit his post and said he is considering a run. Several other contenders may still announce campaigns, including at least two more Council members.

The candidates will spend the next nine months campaigning on a host of issues voters will expect the next mayor to tackle, including fears of an impending recession, a shortage of municipal workers, and a gun violence crisis that resulted in the city last year seeing more homicides than any other time in recorded history.

Parker said she’s focused on public safety, job creation, and consistent delivery of city services.

“People want safety, and they want cleanliness, and they want to see their city functioning in a way that makes them believe, have hope, be motivated, and be inspired,” she said. “That’s not what you feel today. But we will.”

Parker’s potential base of support

Parker got her start in City Hall at age 17 working for former Councilmember Marian B. Tasco, the seven-term member from Northwest Philadelphia long considered one of the city’s most influential politicians. When Tasco left Council in 2015, Parker — then a state representative — was tapped to take her place.

Parker’s status as Tasco’s protégé could serve her campaign well. Tasco is one of the leaders of the Northwest Coalition, a storied political family that propelled Kenney to office in 2015 and drives perennially high voter turnout in several wards.

She’s also contending for support from organized labor and has a close relationship with Ryan Boyer, the leader of the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council, a coalition of labor unions. Boyer, who took over last year after former business manager John Dougherty was convicted on federal bribery charges, has been tight-lipped about the mayoral race.

» READ MORE: There are vacancies on Philadelphia City Council, and more could be coming. Here’s what happens next.

Last year, Boyer unexpectedly resigned as chair of the Delaware River Port Authority, and Parker took his place, becoming the first woman to chair the board. In a statement about her appointment, Boyer was effusive, calling Parker a “dedicated, talented, and brilliant leader.”

Parker said she’ll compete for voters from across the city and its ideological spectrum.

“I will never allow anyone to put me in a box,” she said. “It’s ‘she’s Black, she’s a woman, so she’ll just be the Black candidate.’ No. If anybody is thinking that way about me, they don’t know the work I’ve done.”

Through her own two terms in Council, Parker has focused her policy on small-business corridors, the elderly, and residents of the city’s so-called middle neighborhoods, or working-class communities at risk of economic decline. The 9th District is almost entirely composed of such neighborhoods.

This year, she’s spent much of her political capital on crime and policing, releasing a public safety plan in March while decrying a “sense of lawlessness in the city.” The plan would add 300 police officers to the force and they would patrol on bikes, an approach she says balances “proactive” policing with criminal justice reform.

And in July, days after two officers were struck by bullets at an Independence Day celebration, Parker stood with Council President Darrell L. Clarke at a news conference when he suggested the city should revisit how it uses stop-and-frisk, the practice of officers stopping and searching pedestrians over suspicious behavior. The practice has long been criticized as aggressive and racially biased.

But legal stops, Parker said, are a necessary tool to get illegal guns off the street.

» READ MORE: What is Philly’s resign-to-run rule?

Replacing Council members who resigned

It was unclear Wednesday when Parker would be replaced on Council. It’s up to Clarke to call for special elections, and he has not said publicly how or when he will handle vacancies created through the wave of resignations.

Parker said she didn’t know Clarke’s plans. She and Quiñones-Sánchez, who represented the Kensington-based 7th District, are the only two likely mayoral candidates who are resigning from district Council seats. Others, like Green and Domb, held at-large seats, which are elected citywide.

District Council members perform a large volume of constituent services, and Quiñones-Sánchez said she hopes Clarke will order a special election to fill her seat that would coincide with the Nov. 8 general election for state and federal races. Traditionally, there is less urgency to fill at-large Council seats when vacancies arise.

“The 7th Council District is very busy,” Quiñones-Sánchez said, “and we would not want to see it be vacant for 14 months.”

Clarke would likely have to issue writs of election this week to add races to the November ballot, because election officials need time to print and distribute mail ballots.

If there is a special election, Quiñones-Sánchez said, she is backing her former chief of staff, Quetcy Lozada, to replace her.

Nominees for special elections are chosen by party ward leaders in the districts. Given the district’s heavily Democratic electorate, Lozada would almost certainly win the election to finish Quiñones-Sánchez’s term if she gets their backing, the prospects of which Quiñones-Sánchez said are “very hopeful.”

Meanwhile, Green on Wednesday held a campaign launch party, the first event of the mayoral race, at the ESPM Hair Zone, a “sports talk barbershop” in West Philadelphia owned by Mike Monroe.

Flanked by family, friends, and supporters, Green said he is running for mayor to unite opposing voices over issues such as gun violence, taxes, and development. He chose ESPM, which stands for Excellent Styling Performed by Monroe, because of the owner’s work to use his barbershop to help combat the gun violence crisis.

“I’m running for mayor because Philadelphians should expect more and deserve better from our city,” Green said. “We need people to put down their guns, and pick up paychecks.”