Voters have cast their ballots in the 2019 primary election, weighing in on races for mayor, City Council, and row offices in Philadelphia.
Here are key things to know about the results:
• Mayor Jim Kenney handily won the Democratic primary for mayor in his reelection bid.
• Former Philly police officer Rochelle Bilal defeated incumbent Sheriff Jewell Williams in the Democratic primary for sheriff, a significant upset. In the race for register of wills, another row-office incumbent was ousted, as former deputy city commissioner Tracey L. Gordon won over Ron Donatucci in the Democratic primary.
• In closely watched district City Council races, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson fended off challenger Lauren Vidas in the Second District, while Maria Quiñones-Sánchez claimed victory in the Seventh District. In the Third District in West Philadelphia, Jamie Gauthier defeated longtime Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.
• The at-large race for City Council featured the largest field in decades, and the Democratic primary winners represented a mix of millenials and the political machine.
• With the vast majority of votes counted, turnout Tuesday surpassed the 2017 primary and general elections, as well as the 2018 primary election. More than 237,000 people voted on election day, with absentee ballots still to be counted. In the 2015 primary election, 269,635 people voted; in the 2017 primary, 210,838 people voted.
Register of Wills loses 11th reelection bid
Longtime Register of Wills Ronald R. Donatucci has been ousted.
The South Philly politician held the office since 1980, but voters Tuesday declined to give him an 11th term.
Instead, they voted for former deputy city commissioner Tracey L. Gordon. Former Deputy Sheriff Jacque Whaumbush finished third.
The office has a $4 million annual budget and about 70 employees; it’s responsible for receiving wills for probate, maintaining wills and estate records, collecting inheritance taxes, and issuing marriage licenses.
Jannie Blackwell unseated in 3rd District, leaves watch party
In the Third District, longtime incumbent Jannie Blackwell appeared to be unseated after facing her first credible challenger in decades.
At 11 p.m., Jamie Gauthier, the former head of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, had 56 percent of the vote with 95 precincts reporting, putting her ahead of the powerful councilwoman who has represented the district since 1992.
Blackwell walked out of her watch party without giving a speech, instead hugging and shaking hands with supporters and saying, “See ya, everybody. See ya. Thanks, everybody.”
Blackwell took over from her husband, Lucien, who had held the seat since 1975. Blackwell is the oldest member of Council and its second-longest-serving.
The race was one of the most closely watched this election, with a longtime member of the Democratic establishment being challenged by a progressive political newcomer on issues of political power and land development.
Gauthier is essentially guaranteed the seat, as there is no Republican challenger.
Millennials and the machine win in City Council At-Large races
In a crowded field of Democratic candidates for City Council at-large, two millennial challengers joined three incumbents in taking the top five spots, all but guaranteeing their election in a deeply Democratic city.
Isaiah Thomas, 34, and Kathy Gilmore Richardson, 35, will inject a dose of youth to City Council, where the current average age is 58 and no members are younger than 45.
They join incumbents Helen Gym, Allan Domb, and Derek Green in the top five.
Overall, 28 Democrats ran for those spots, the most in four decades. All five winners were endorsed by the city Democratic Party.
There are seven at-large members, who represent the city as a whole, and no party can win more than five seats. In effect, that means five seats go to Democrats and two to Republicans.
They join the ten Council members who represent individual geographic districts.
What happened in the suburbs
In Philadelphia’s suburbs, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners incumbents Valerie Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence Jr. won the Democratic nominations in a landslide, according to unofficial election results. It is the first time Lawrence won reelection to the board. He was initially appointed in January 2017 to fill the seat of Josh Shapiro, now the state’s attorney general.
The race was among a handful of county-wide elections in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir win race to run Philly’s elections
Incumbent City Commissioner Lisa Deeley won her bid for a second term as one of Philly’s top elections officials. And with fellow Democrat Anthony Clark retiring, she’ll be joined by Omar Sabir.
That’s a win for the city’s Democratic establishment, as the city party endorsed both candidates amid a larger field than has been seen in decades.
And with their victory comes a loss for advocates for hand-marked paper ballots, who had sought to make the election a referendum on new touchscreen voting machines that they say are more costly and less secure than paper ballots that voters manually fill out. Deeley and incumbent Republican Al Schmidt, who was unopposed in the GOP primary, selected the touchscreen systems.
Sabir said he isn’t concerned about the new machines — “we have the new voting machines, I don't like to cry over spilled milk” — and is looking forward to working with Deeley on expanding community outreach to increase voter turnout.
“I have a new partner in Omar, and I look forward to four great years,” Deeley said. “We’re going to work together, we’re going to do great stuff, and I’m sure Omar’s going to bring a lot of great ideas to the table.”
Philly judge, Chesco deputy DA lead in Superior Court race
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Dan McCaffery has a commanding lead in the Democratic primary for Superior Court, a statewide appellate court. In the GOP primary, the leading candidate is Megan McCarthy King, a deputy district attorney in Chester County.
The top two candidates in each primary will advance to the general election.
Maria Quiñones-Sánchez claims victory in 7th District
In one of the most closely watched races this election, incumbent Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, a fiercely independent Democrat who lacks party backing and prides herself on battling the city’s political machine, claimed victory over her challenger, State Rep. Angel Cruz.
Quiñones-Sánchez had publicly said her opponent would only win if he did so illegally.
Instead, she appeared to have won. As of about 10:30 p.m., Quiñones-Sánchez had 52 percent of the vote, with about 95 percent of precincts reporting results.
“I want to thank god because there was a lot of negativity in this campaign," the councilwoman told supporters. She said constituents “deserve someone who shows up to work, is prepared and delivers for you.”
The Democratic winner will not face a Republican candidate in November.
Rochelle Bilal takes upset victory in sheriff’s race
Former Philadelphia Police officer Rochelle Bilal beat incumbent Sheriff Jewell Williams in the Democratic primary for sheriff in an upset victory.
As of 10 p.m. and with 86 percent of precincts reporting results, Bilal was leading the four-way race by nearly 20,000 votes. Williams, who has been embroiled in three cases involving alleged sexual harassment and also faces scrutiny for giving professional services contracts to campaign contributors and soliciting campaign donations from employees, has not conceded.
In addition to Williams, Bilal finished ahead of former sheriff’s deputies Malika Rahman and Larry King Sr.
Bilal, 61, is president of the Guardian Civic League, a group that represents black police officers.
Kenyatta Johnson wins Democratic primary in 2nd District
Kenyatta Johnson, the incumbent Second District councilman who has faced scrutiny over city land deals that benefited his friends, held off lawyer and consultant Lauren Vidas in a closely watched race that had revolved around issues of Council power, land use, and gentrification.
As of shortly after 10 p.m., Johnson had nearly 60 percent of the vote, with 87 percent of precincts reporting.
In November, he will face Michael Bradley, head of the Grays Ferry Civic Association, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.
Ballot measures appear to pass
Philadelphia voters approved four proposed charter amendments on Tuesday: the creation of a new class of law officer dedicated to traffic enforcement, the use of gender-neutral language for City Council and its members; making permanent the Office of Immigrant Affairs, created by executive order in 2016; and urging the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
With more than 70 percent of the votes counted, the “yes” votes comfortably outnumbered “no” votes for all four questions.
Kenney: ‘Serving as your mayor has been the greatest honor of my life’
Mayor Jim Kenney told supporters at his election-night party that the job was a privilege.
“Serving as your mayor has been the greatest honor of my life," the mayor said at the National Museum of American Jewish History. “There’s something special about being mayor when you walk into a pre-K classroom and see how a quality education serves our children.”
» READ MORE: Jim Kenney wins Democratic mayoral primary
Nail-biters in the Third and Seventh Districts
Two of the most closely watched Democratic races this election season remain in the spotlight as results come in.
In West Philly’s Third District, longtime Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell was running slightly behind Jamie Gauthier, the first credible challenger she has had in years, with 30 percent of precincts reporting results.
Blackwell has held the seat since 1992, when she took it over from her husband, Lucien, who had represented the district since 1975.
The challenge from Gauthier, the former head of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, forced issues of Council power, land development, and gentrification to the forefront of the race.
Meanwhile, the fight to represent Kensington’s Seventh District also remained close, with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
Incumbent Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, known for challenging the party establishment and lacking its support, holds a slight lead over State Rep. Angel Cruz.
The race has been nasty, with allegations of electoral impropriety in a district where shenanigans have occurred in the past.
Helen Gym leads the City Council at-large pack
With half the precincts reporting their results, first-term Councilwoman Helen Gym had about 15 percent of the vote, putting her at the top of the 28 Democratic candidates in the crowded at-large City Council race.
For the at-large seats, which represent the entire city, no party can hold more than five seats. In effect, that means the five Democrats in deep-blue Philly who win Tuesday will nearly certainly win those seats in November.
With the results still coming in, Gym was followed by incumbent Allan Domb, third-time challenger Isaiah Thomas, incumbent Derek Green, and first-time challenger Katherine Gilmore Richardson. Click here to see where all of the candidates in the sprawling field stand, as well as tallies from other races.
Potential upset alert: Sheriff’s race
With more than one-third of precincts reporting their election results shortly after 9 p.m., former Philadelphia Police Officer Rochelle Bilal held a sizable lead in the race for sheriff, representing a potential upset of incumbent Jewell Williams.
Williams, who has been in office since 2012, has been embroiled in three cases involving alleged sexual harassment and also faces scrutiny for giving professional services contracts to campaign contributors and soliciting campaign donations from employees.
Bilal had slightly more than 40 percent of the vote, with Williams and former sheriff’s deputy Malika Rahman each taking about 25 percent of the vote. Larry King Sr., another former sheriff’s deputy, had about seven percent of the vote.
There is no Republican candidate, meaning the winner of Tuesday’ primary is almost certain to win in November, unless challenged by a third-party or independent candidate.
Mayor Jim Kenney coasts to primary win in reelection bid
Kenney had faced two challengers in the Democratic primary: State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz. Both had sought to attack Kenney on his signature first-term achievement, the sweetened-beverage tax, as well as crime, policing, poverty, and other issues.
In the end, Williams and Butkovitz failed to make history — no mayor who has run for reelection has lost since the city’s two-term limit took effect in 1952.
Butkovitz conceded the race shortly before 9:15 p.m.
In November, Kenney will face defense attorney Billy Ciancaglini, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
Mayoral campaign watch parties: Stuffy conference rooms, Rihanna, and a slideshow
While we wait for election results, let’s take a look at the watch parties for the three mayoral campaigns.
At a quiet gathering in Center City, a group of Alan Butkovitz supporters sat around a long table in a conference room on the 16th floor of a coworking space, watching a television displaying the election results webpage.
Butkovitz sat at the front of the table, eyes on the screen. Some supporters ate sandwiches from paper plates and sipped beer, discussing the numbers as they trickled in.
It was a speedy recovery from a few moments prior, when people were scrambling to turn on the air conditioning in the overly warm room.
More than half of the 13 people at the start of the night were reporters.
Meanwhile, in State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams’ event at the former Berean Institute on Girard Avenue, a DJ has kept a festive atmosphere going for several hours now.
The high-energy music of Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Michael Jackson, and others played for the handful of supporters who have arrived so far, while a large group of election day workers, many of them young, lined up to get paid by the campaign.
A projector screen behind what will be Williams’ podium sits blank.
As for Mayor Jim Kenney, not much is happening yet at his watch party, either.
His room at the National Museum of American Jewish History — decorated with bunches of red, white, and blue balloons — remained largely empty before 9 p.m., with music playing and the stage and podium ready for the mayor to speak later.
A slideshow of photos from his first term played to the largely empty room.
We already know the winners in these races
Even though the polls only just closed, and results aren’t even in yet, we’re going to go ahead and call it.
We feel comfortable declaring winners in half the City Council district races. (It’s easy: The candidates ran unopposed.)
Council President Darrell L. Clarke, first elected in 1999, is unopposed in the Fifth District and will face no Republican candidate in November.
In the Sixth District, Bobby Henon, the majority leader who is under indictment for allegedly using his position to benefit Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, did not face a primary challenger. He will face Pete Smith, a delivery truck driver, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Democratic incumbents Cindy Bass and Cherelle L. Parker were unopposed in the Eighth District and Ninth District, respectively. Neither faces Republican competition in November.
In the Tenth District, incumbent Republican Brian J. O’Neill — the longest-serving Council member, in office since 1979 — was unopposed in today’s primary. He will face Judy Moore, the Garces Group chief strategy officer who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In the Second District, Michael Bradley ran unopposed on the Republican side and Billy Ciancaglini had the Republican primary for mayor all to himself. We feel pretty safe calling those two races as well.
Polls have closed
Polls closed at 8 p.m. — though any voters still in line at that time will be allowed to cast ballots. Stick with us throughout the night for the latest updates as results come in.
Did voters turn out?
While the primary season brought out a crowded field of candidates, early indications are that turnout was low. Still, there were some eager voters, the usual buzz at the typical election day power spots, and signs of voter excitement in some parts of the city. Here are more scenes from polling places around Philly on primary day.
Joining the post-work voting crowd? Here’s what you need to know
Turnout has been reportedly less than enthusiastic in Philly so far — as one solomonic worker put it, “I’ve seen worse — but I’ve seen better as well” — but there’s always the post-work crowd. Polls are open until 8 p.m., and as long as you are in line by that time you are allowed to vote. (Find your polling place here.)
Here are some resources to help you get the information you need:
• Voter’s guide for the Philadelphia primary election: Find your candidates by address or view all the candidates on each party’s ballot.
• Who’s running for Philadelphia City Council?: Learn about the dozens of candidates seeking Council seats and how the field breaks down by age, occupation, cash, and more.
• Where do City Council candidates stand on the issues?: We asked candidates for their views on issues from the soda tax to sanctuary cities to bike lanes to charter schools. Find out what they said.
What’s motivating Philly voters this primary
What was on the minds of Philly voters as they cast their ballots Tuesday? Here are a few of the issues that Philly voters said influenced their choices.
Safe injection sites: Jihad Ahmed, 45, said he voted for State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in the mayoral race: “I like that (Williams) is against (safe injection sites) ... you’re like legalizing people to be able to go in there and get high. Give our people treatment."
Urban planning: Stephen Rafferty, 30, said he voted for Jamie Gauthier in the 3rd District race: “I was excited that there would be hopefully someone thoughtful about the built environment in elected office.”
‘I Voted’ stickers, and custom ones on the way?
You may be showing off those “I Voted” or “He Votado Hoy” stickers on social media today, but do you know the history of the election emblem?
The practice may have begun in the 1980s to raise voter awareness on Election Day, Newsweek reports, but its origins are a little more fuzzy.
Not all states go the traditional route, however. Some opt for a bit of local flare. Georgia’s sticker shows a peach, while New York’s connects the boroughs with a minimalist subway map.
City Council offered some suggestions with some Philly attitude this week, just as it had during the midterm elections.
Back in November though, the City Commissioner’s office responded that it was “already working on this” — which was apparently no joke. A sticker redesign is “one of several projects” being worked on, a spokesperson said last week.
Election day power lunch: Where schmoozing is on the menu
By the afternoon, insiders and hopefuls gathered — or attempted to gather — at what are election day staples for the politically connected: lunch at Relish in West Oak Lane or Famous 4th Street Deli in Queen Village.
At Famous, Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen lunched at political consultant Neil Oxman’s table. Also at Oxman’s table? Former Mayor Bill Green III, state Treasurer Joe Torsella, and former 6ABC anchor Marc Howard were also spotted. Nearby, former State Sen. Vince Fumo talked about his work as a political consultant.
Over at Relish in West Oak Lane, elected politicians and candidates filtered in and out, shaking hands and fueling up on fried chicken, mac n’ cheese and collard greens.
The who’s-who of Philly politics included Mayor Jim Kenney, several representatives from Harrisburg, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a slew of candidates hoping to win their races in Philly tonight.
“I love your commercials,” Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., said as he shook hands with Councilman-at-large Allan Domb.
“Bring it home,” attorney Kevin Greenberg said to Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who is hoping to hold on to his seat representing the 2nd District.
Not everyone was allowed inside. At-large candidate Erika Almirón was denied entry. She said she wasn’t invited to the event and was told it was invite-only at the door. Rochelle Bilal, running for sheriff, also said she didn’t get an invitation. The event was hosted by the Laborers’ District Council.
“I’ve been coming here every year,” Bilal said. Steps away was Sheriff Jewell Williams, who distributed his fliers but declined an interview. “That’s our Democratic Party in there,” Bilal said. “It should be open to every candidate running.”
— Chris Brennan and Julia Terruso
End of the morning rush
Voting continued as normal following the morning rush, said Pat Christmas, policy director of the Committee of Seventy, an elections watchdog group. By 11 a.m., phones were “not exactly ringing off the hook," though Christmas noted there were a few calls concerning late openings and machines not working.
The District Attorney Office’s Election Task Force received 23 complaints by Tuesday afternoon, the majority of which concerned electioneering allegations, according to the office.
“Voting otherwise continues smoothly,” the district attorney’s office tweeted.
In the 7th District, where eyes are on what is most likely to become one of the most competitive council races, a sample ballot posted outside the Luis Muñoz-Marín School on Third and Ontario Streets listed candidates for the 8th District. That meant Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez and state Rep. Angel Cruz were excluded, among others. The error, noticed at about 9:30 a.m. by committee person Maria Cruz, was changed by 11:20 a.m., after about 85 people had voted in its three divisions.
By mid-morning, Christmas said there’s a chance that turnout this year won’t be as high as it was in the 2015 primary, when Philly saw an open mayoral race. Kenney won the 2015 primary with 130,775 votes over State Sen. Tony Williams, who collected 61,160 votes, according to the City Commissioners office.
“One of the most important variables in turnout is whether there’s a prominent race with a well-financed candidate,” Christmas said. " ... The district Council offices and row offices are just not as high profile."
Christmas said he’s watching Sixty-Six Wards as an indicator of turnout.
You may notice two blank spots among the Democratic at-large positions while pulling up your sample ballot.
The No. 4 position belonged to Willie Singletary, who a judge ruled in March couldn’t run for council due to a felony conviction for lying to FBI agents in a corruption probe. The No. 16 spot belonged to former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III, who withdrew because of the ballot position, the Inquirer reported in March.
While neither name appears on the online sample ballot made available on the City Commissioners’ website, at least one Twitter user noted that Singletary’s name appears in the voting booth, though a paper sign in English and Spanish alerts residents that votes cast for the candidate would not be counted.
In Philly, ballot positions are assigned by pulling numbers out of an archaic Horn & Hardart coffee can. Love it or hate it, the can holds a lot of power. It even has its own Twitter account.
“It’s pretty much incontrovertible that you have an advantage if you come first. Just flat-out,” Monika McDermott, a political scientist at Fordham University, previously told The Inquirer.
Ballot positions may be particularly important for this year’s primary, where 34 Democrats and seven Republicans are vying for seven at-large Council seats. That’s the largest field of candidates since 1983. This year, Adrian Rivera Reyes, a Democratic socialist, and Deja Lynn Alvarez, a public-health LGBTQ activist and the first transgender woman to run for City Council, got the top spots.
Paper ballots debut in Montco
Montgomery County residents were greeted with a new way of voting this morning: paper ballots.
They are full-sized sheets of paper that a voter fills out and then is fed into a scanner machine.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s Department of State last year ordered counties to buy new, more-secure voting machines that leave a paper trail. Experts say that is best practice to ensure proper post-election audits and recounts and instill voter confidence.
Reviews so far appear mixed with some voters complaining that it took longer to vote than it did with the old machines.
Voting off to a typical Philly start
The Committee of 70 elections watchdog group says voting got under way Tuesday morning with no major problems except that some polling places opened late, which is not unusual.
Sixty-six Wards, an effort to track real time turnout based on reports from voters, estimated that more than 41,000 people had cast ballots by 9 a.m. Turnout for the last mayoral primary in 2015 was 247,000.
Along with libraries and schools, you can find voters in today’s election casting their ballots at some pretty unusual places. There are restaurants like Lee’s Hoagie House in Rhawnhurst or Gold Standard Cafe in West Philly, as well as spots like the Mummers Museum or the Painted Bride. Don’t believe it? Have a look at the list yourself — your neighbor’s garage might just be a polling place.
The rather unconventional spots are born out of the desire for polling places to be close to voters, as well as Philadelphia’s status as an older city and the need for locations to be accessible to people with disabilities.
If you’re not sure where to find your own polling place, consult the Department of State’s database online.
Learn about the ballot
Over the past several months, the Inquirer has produced several guides to help you get ready to vote. Need to read up before heading to your polling place? Read on.
• Voter’s guide for the Philadelphia primary election: Find candidates in your district by address, or view all the candidates on each party’s ballot.
• Who’s running for Philadelphia City Council?: This year’s primary features a crowded field. Learn more about the candidates seeking Council seats, and how the field breaks down by age, occupation, cash, and more.
• Where do City Council candidates stand on the issues?: We asked candidates for their views on issues from the soda tax to sanctuary cities to bike lanes to charter schools. Find out what they said.
• Quiz: What’s on the 2019 Philly primary election ballot? Test your city government knowledge.
Polls are open
Polls opened at 7 a.m. in Pennsylvania for a primary election in which the main focus is on heavily Democratic Philadelphia, where Mayor Jim Kenney is facing two challengers and a crowded field of candidates is vying for the party’s seven at-large City Council slots. Other than the at-large City Council race, Republican candidates are running unopposed in the city.
In other races, 13 Democrats are running for two slots in the city commissioners race, vying to lead the office that runs Philly elections. Three candidates, including incumbent Jewell Williams, are seeking to be the party’s choice for sheriff.
All Philadelphia voters are being asked in a special election to say yay or nay to four amendments to the Home Rule Charter.
The only statewide races are for Superior Court, with three candidates running in each party’s primary for the two slots each has on the general election ballot. Local judicial races also are on the ballot.
The weather forecast calls for sunny skies with a high around 72.
Polls will close at 8 p.m.
Welcome to primary day
Pennsylvania voters head to the polls Tuesday for the primary election. Stick with the Inquirer throughout the day for updates on turnout, scenes from the polls, and last-minute campaigning, and come back in the evening for the latest news as results come in.
Throughout the day and night, you’ll be hearing from the Inquirer team on races in Philly and beyond. During the day, Patricia Madej and Joseph A. Gambardello will be your guides here to what you need to know before casting your vote, while Jonathan Lai will take the reigns in the evening to keep you informed as the races are called.
They’ll be joined by other staffers bringing you stories on philly.com and our social platforms: Chris Brennan, Laura McCrystal, Michaelle Bond, and Justine McDaniel will be tracking the mayoral race. Julia Terruso, William Bender, Craig McCoy, and Maddie Hanna will have all the City Council action. Claudia Vargas will keep you up to date on the sheriff’s race, while Andrew Seidman covers the judicial contests, and Tom Fitzgerald will let you know ballot-measure results. Chris Palmer and Tommy Rowan will have the latest from election court, while TyLisa Johnson, Samantha Melamed, Jesenia De Moya Correa, and Juliana Feliciano Reyes tell you what’s on voters’ minds and bring you other election day updates from around the region.