Philadelphia City Council members have struck a deal in an attempt to oust Councilman Bobby Henon as majority leader while he fights a federal corruption indictment.
Henon and the two Council members challenging him for the Democratic leadership post, Cherelle Parker and Curtis Jones Jr., have all so far fallen short of securing the eight votes needed to win.
But Democrats believe there are enough members who don’t want to vote for Henon while he’s in legal trouble. So Parker and Jones agreed that Parker would become majority leader and Jones majority whip. Jones confirmed the deal to The Inquirer on Thursday.
“Those are my prayers,” Jones said when asked about the arrangement.
Council still needs to vote on the leadership positions at its January swearing-in ceremony, the first meeting of the next session, and it remains to be seen then if Parker will have enough votes. No member has challenged Council President Darrell L. Clarke for the chamber’s top job.
Henon, who previously said he intended to hold on to the post, said Thursday only that nothing had changed in his approach to the leadership race. Accused of using his office to settle petty feuds, threaten rivals, and delay planned legislation, Henon has pleaded not guilty in a case centered on corruption in the electricians’ union.
Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, the only Council member to call on Henon to resign in the wake of the indictment, was said to be instrumental in building support for the deal.
“It’s a real consensus because not everybody was happy," she said Thursday.
Parker declined to comment. She is one of several Council members said to be eyeing a mayoral run in 2023, when Mayor Jim Kenney finishes his second term. While the last three mayors were all previously Council members, none of them served as majority leader before moving to the executive branch.
The largely symbolic majority leader position comes with a pay raise — $9,000 on top of members’ $131,000 base salary — but has little direct power. The politics of leadership elections, however, often shape the dynamics of the ensuing Council session, with members trading future favors and forming alliances to win the posts.
The change in leadership, if it comes to final fruition next month, would come amid other significant shifts in Council. Four new members, including the chamber’s first millennials and its first member from outside one of the two major parties in more than 100 years, will take office in January.
The three new Democrats — Isaiah Thomas, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, and Jamie Gauthier — will replace longtime members Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bill Greenlee, and Jannie Blackwell, all close allies of Clarke.
Kendra Brooks, of the progressive Working Families Party, will replace Republican Al Taubenberger to fill one of the two at-large Council seats effectively set aside for members from outside the city’s dominant Democratic Party.