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A guide to Cherelle Parker: What to know about the person Philly Democrats picked for mayor

Former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker is the Democratic nominee for mayor. Here's what you need to know about her background, policy positions, and more.

Cherelle Parker arrives to a get-out-the-vote rally at the Carpenters Benefits Hall on Saturday. She won the Democratic primary for mayor Tuesday.
Cherelle Parker arrives to a get-out-the-vote rally at the Carpenters Benefits Hall on Saturday. She won the Democratic primary for mayor Tuesday.Read moreTyger Williams / Tyger Williams / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia Democrats on Tuesday nominated former City Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker for mayor, making a political insider who ran on a tough-on-crime platform the odds-on favorite to helm the city.

She came out on top of a crowded field of nine Democrats seeking the nomination, and polls late in the race showed as many as five top contenders had paths to victory. In November, she will face Republican David Oh, also a former Council member, in the general election.

Parker, 50, is heavily favored to win, given Democrats hold a large voter-registration advantage in the city and a Republican hasn’t held the Mayor’s Office in more than 70 years. She would be the first woman to ever serve as Philadelphia mayor.

Here’s what to know about Parker:

Who is Cherelle Parker?

  1. A single mother and a native of West Oak Lane, Parker lost much of her family at a young age and started interning for legendary former Councilmember Marian B. Tasco when she was in high school. She attended Lincoln University, where she obtained a degree in English education, and she got a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

  2. After obtaining her undergraduate degree, Parker worked in New Jersey as a high school English teacher and English-as-a-second-language teacher. But she returned to City Hall, working as a staffer and rising through the ranks in Tasco’s office.

  3. A protege of one of Philadelphia’s most powerful politicians, Parker then spent most of the remainder of her career in government. In 2005, she was elected to the state House, representing Northwest Philadelphia’s 200th district, and served for a decade. She was the youngest Black woman ever elected to the state House, and in 2011, she was elected chair of the Philadelphia delegation in the House.

  4. In 2016, she was elected to Council, succeeding Tasco to serve Philadelphia’s 9th District. In 2019, she became Council’s Democratic majority leader.

Cherelle Parker’s key policy positions

Parker is a political moderate who on the campaign trail often emphasized her time in the state House working with Republicans to advance her agenda, but her ideology doesn’t fit so neatly onto the usual left-right spectrum.

She has clearly rejected new progressive ideals, often insinuating that the Democratic Party’s left wing is out-of-touch with what Black Philadelphians want, saying they engage in “I-know-what’s-best-for-you-people policymaking.” For example, Parker said routinely that she strongly opposes establishing a supervised-injection site in Philadelphia, saying, “Nobody was talking about a safe crack house in our community back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s.”

On crime:

She ran on a tough-on-crime platform, pledging to hire 300 new cops for her signature policing plan, and she has embraced law enforcement’s use of the tactic known as stop-and-frisk. But Parker has described her policing model as community-oriented, with more police walking in neighborhoods and developing relationships with residents and small-business owners.

And she has been careful to say that she only supports “constitutional stop-and-frisk” — often referred to by police as “pedestrian stops” — a legally authorized method in which police can stop and pat down a person for such things as guns and drugs. Parker has been vocal for years about police misconduct and what she has said are needed reforms.

On economics:

Parker has also pitched herself as a champion of Philadelphia’s “middle neighborhoods,” those that are neither wealthy nor mired in deep poverty, and believes strong government intervention is needed to provide opportunities for working families.

She talked often on the campaign trail about creating pathways to the middle class, and emphasized the importance of homeownership to creating generational wealth. Parker also unveiled a plan to created thousands of new units of affordable housing.

On education:

Parker’s education plan includes year-round school, and keeping all school buildings open longer hours in order to provide robust extracurricular opportunities. Achieving that could be an expensive endeavor, given many Philadelphia school buildings are not well equipped to operate through summer heat.

Parker also wants high schools to offer sports, college courses, apprenticeships, and career training with city departments and private businesses.

She wants to shift the district’s share of the city’s property tax revenue, so it receives 58% as opposed to its current 55%, which would amount to an increase of about $50 million annually, she said.

How Cherelle Parker won the nomination

Parker’s victory was powered by Black voters and residents of the poor and low-income neighborhoods hardest hit by the city’s gun violence crisis, according to an Inquirer analysis. The only Black candidate among the top contenders, Parker has been clear that Black voters made up the core of her base.

In addition, Parker, a consummate political insider, was backed by a number of political power centers that undoubtedly played a large role in her win. While the Democratic City Committee didn’t make an endorsement in the mayor’s race, chair Bob Brady embraced Parker and more than 40 of the city’s 69 ward leaders backed her.

Her top labor endorsements included:

  1. The Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, a coalition of politically powerful labor unions

  2. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, the electricians union that has long been one of the biggest spenders in Pennsylvania politics

  3. The Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, a deep-pocketed union that has helped elect mayors and governors across the country

  4. Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, a major political spender in East Coast municipal elections

  5. Two unions that represent Philadelphia’s streets and sanitation workers that broke with their umbrella union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ District Council 33, which endorsed Jeff Brown

Her top endorsements from elected officials included:

  1. Both congressmen from Philadelphia: U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans and U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle

  2. City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr., and Council Democratic Whip Mark Squilla

  3. Former mayoral candidates Derek Green and Maria Quiñones Sánchez

  4. Top Democrats in Harrisburg, including state Sen. Sharif Street, chair of the state Democratic Party, and state Sen. Vincent Hughes, a longtime West Philadelphia lawmaker who himself considered running for mayor

  5. While he didn’t call it an endorsement, Mayor Jim Kenney said he voted for Parker

What happens next

Parker was hospitalized Tuesday night at the University of Pennsylvania for a dental emergency. Campaign spokesperson Aren Platt said in an emailed statement after midnight that she “had a recent dental issue that required immediate medical attention.”

Campaigning will ramp up again later this summer ahead of the November general election, when Parker will face Oh. The new mayor will take office in January, along with a handful of new City Council members.

Inquirer staff writers Julia Terruso, Kristen Graham, and Aseem Shukla contributed reporting.