This page lists all of Philly Progressives’ endorsements for the 2019 primary elections, and explanations for each. For more information on candidates, please visit the know the candidates page or click on the candidate’s image below. For judges, Philly Progressives defers to the Bar Association’s recommendations. A list of judges running for office can be found at phillyjudges.com/candidates. They do not list Superior Court judges, which can be found within the Committee of Seventy’s ballot tool. Recommended judges are listed at the bottom of this page.
Keep in mind that Pennsylvania has closed primaries, meaning that only voters registered with a party can vote for candidates within that party. If you are a Democrat, you can only vote for Democrats, and if you are a Republican, you can only vote for Republicans. Third-party, minor party, and independent candidates do not run in the primary. They will appear on the November ballot if they collect enough signatures by August.
Mayor Kenney has a strong progressive record. He has fought for minimum wage increases and raised the minimum wage for all City employees or contractors, has long been a voice for criminal justice reform, including decriminalizing marijuana, has successful created Pre-K through the City, is an advocate for investment in public infrastructure, and continues to use his platform to fight bigotry and discrimination. Because of this, Philly Progressives endorses him for the 2019 primary.
It is true that there are some disappointing features of Mayor Kenney. While his Rebuild initiative is well—intentioned, the soda tax was probably not the best way to achieve it, and is now a source of controversy. Additionally, he has refused to call on City Councilmember Bobby Henon to resign, despite his involvement in the Local 98 corruption cases, and he has ties to Johnny Doc and former Senator Vince Fumo, both notorious power brokers involved in pay-to-play practices.
Despite these issues, Kenney’s clear progressive record outshines all of his competitors. And, his competitors suffer from issues. Butkovitz and Ciancaglini both fail to offer a robust platform, and seem to just be trying to take a try at the race because they can. Williams has a strong platform, but his acceptance of significant funding from charter school PACs is a serious issue that alone knocks him out. He received more than $7 million in campaign funds from a pro-charter school PAC, and was also one of the chief authors of the State’s lax charter school legislation as a State legislator.
Although each voter can only select two candidates, Philly Progressives has endorsed four. Any of these candidates are a strong choice. These candidates all have a combination of a strong public service record, progressive ideals, and a robust platform. Their dedication to open and fair elections is clear, and they offer real solutions and the experience that would enable them to implement these solutions. Most other candidates offer little to no information. Further, the incumbents have been involved in several controversies, most recently with the allegedly improper purchase of new voting machines.
Since the State Constitution requires that one commissioner be from a minority party, and Al Schmidt is the only Republican running, it is certain that he will win the Republican nomination, and likely the minority slot.
REgister of Wills
Gordon does not offer a platform or much information at all. She only received the endorsement because Ronald Donatucci has been in his current role for far too long—since 1980—and he has several serious conflicts of interest. Therefore, Philly Progressives seeks to endorse any viable candidate other than him, and Gordon simply provides slightly more information than her other competitor.
Like the Register of Wills role, King was endorsed as the strongest candidate who is not the incumbent. The incumbent, Jewell Williams, has now been credibly accused of two sexual harassment cases that caused large payouts from the Democratic Party and the City. Additionally, he has several credible accusations of abusing his position for quid pro quo practices and to enrich his friends within his department. Therefore, Philly Progressives endorses any viable candidate other than Williams. King offers the most information on his stances.
City Council At-Large
Like the City Commissioner race, Philly Progressives has chosen eight candidates to endorse, even though voters can only choose five. Any of these candidates are a strong choice. Each of these candidates has a strong record of public service, strong progressive values, and a robust platform.
Several candidates, such as Deja Lynn Alvarez or Fernando Treviño, show a strong record of public service and progressive values, but they do not have a robust platform. Philly Progressives cannot endorse candidates whose views are not clear, no matter how impressive his or her background is. Other candidates offer almost no information—not even a photograph or a website.
Of note, Philly Progressives did not endorse several incumbents. Allan Domb has a massive conflict of interest in his real estate and other business holdings, which is the primary reason why he is not endorsed. Al Taubenberger and David Oh both have not committed to a robust platform, and whatever they have supported is quite conservative. Additionally, Taubenberger dismissed a prominent sexual harassment case as “high school love,” and Oh faced campaign finance violations. Finally, they have expressed opposition to term limits, which itself is enough to knock a candidate out, all else being equal.
The five other Republican challengers all have expressed support for term limits. So, even though Philly Progressives does not endorse these candidates due to their conservative views, these candidates are recommended over the incumbent Republicans. Drew Murray and Matt Wolfe in particular have expressed impressive support for better government, including major ethics reforms and term limits.
City Council Districts
City Council district members in particular have faced significant, credible criticisms, especially surrounding abuse of councilmanic prerogative privileges. For this reason alone, Philly Progressives strongly recommends against voting for Kenyatta Johnson, Jannie Blackwell, and Darrell Clarke. Bobby Henon is now the subject of a major FBI investigation regarding the Local 98 corruption cases, and we therefore strongly recommend against him. Cindy Bass and Cherelle Parker have both expressed opposition to introducing term limits, and they both lack a robust platform. Additionally, Bass has ties to former Senator Chaka Fattah, who is now in prison for corruption charges. Parker has some impressive achievements, but her opposition to term limits and her DUI case in 2011 with a state vehicle prevent an endorsement. Finally, Brian O’Neill and Jannie Blackwell have been in their positions for far, far too long. Even if their platforms and records were impressive, their length of tenure alone is enough reason to vote them out. Clearly, they also oppose term limits.
In District 1, Daniel “Duke” Orsino offers a surprisingly progressive platform. However, since the primary is closed, meaning that members of a party can only vote for a candidate within their party, this is currently irrelevant. Orsino is guaranteed to win the Republican nomination. For the Democrats, Lou Lanni fails to offer a robust, progressive platform, and his public service record is unclear. Squilla offers an impressive record, and he supports term limits. For these reasons, Philly Progressives endorses Squilla.
In District 2, Lauren Vidas is the clear choice. She has an extremely impressive record working in government, she offers one of the most extensive progressive platforms, and perhaps most importantly, she strongly supports sweeping ethics reforms. For the Republican race, Michael Bradley is guaranteed to win. Thankfully, he has expressed support for term limits.
In District 3, Jamie Gauthier is the clear choice. Gauthier has an impressive record and an extensive progressive platform. Again, most importantly, she supports broad ethics reforms that Jannie Blackwell does not support.
In District 4, both candidates are a strong choice. Curtis Jones Jr. has a bit more of a progressive record, while Ron Adams’ platform is not entirely clear.
In District 5, Darrell Clarke is the only contender. Due to his involvement in councilmanic prerogative, Philly Progressives strongly recommends against voting for him, even given that there are no competitors. Even a write-in vote for a preferred candidate is better at this point.
In District 6, there are also no strong choices, unfortunately. Bobby Henon has refused to step down, despite his more than 100 corruption charges from the FBI, and there is no Democratic competitor. Pete Smith, the Republican, has a decidedly conservative platform, so Philly Progressives cannot endorse him. However, he does seem to support strong ethics reforms. In this extreme case of Bobby Henon’s pending charges, it would be preferable to have Pete Smith in office over Henon, even if Smith’s platform is extremely conservative.
In District 7, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez is the clear choice. Angel Cruz has failed to provide a clear platform, and appears to be simply taking another chance at local office because of his powerful connections in the neighborhood. One major downside of Quiñones-Sánchez is her opposition to term limits, and her past support for expanding charter schools. However, she also has a very impressive progressive record, particularly in housing policy. Given these circumstances, Philly Progressives finds her to be the clear choice over Cruz.
In District 8, Cindy Bass is the only one on the ballot. Tonya Bah offered an impressive progressive platform, but did not make it onto the ballot. Philly Progressives cannot endorse Bass, due to her opposition to term limits and her lack of a platform. Therefore, it is recommended to write-in a preferred candidate, with Bah being the clear choice.
In District 9, Cherelle Parker is the only one on the ballot. Again, Philly Progressives cannot endorse her due to her opposition to term limits and her past ethics issues regarding her DUI. Therefore, it is recommended to write-in a candidate of choice.
In District 10, there is only one Democrat and one Republican, so they will both go on to the November election. Even though Judy Moore lacks a platform, she is going to be the only challenger to Brian O’Neill, who has been in office since 1980. Therefore, Philly Progressives recommends voting for Moore, especially considering that both candidates lack a robust platform.
There are four ballot questions, and Philly Progressives recommends voting “yes” on all of them.
Question 1 would update language in the Home Rule Charter to be gender neutral. While this wouldn’t impact any policies, it would at least send a message that City government is serious about equality. It cannot hurt to make this change, and can only help.
Question 2 would make the Office of Immigrant Affairs permanent. Currently, it exists by executive order, which can easily be overturned by any mayor, or easily gutted of funding. Placing it in the Home Rule Charter would help protect this important office moving forward.
Question 3 would not directly achieve policy changes regarding minimum wage, but it would at least send a message to the State government and help put pressure on them to make the change. Currently, Philadelphia is powerless within State law to set its own minimum wage. The City should do whatever it takes to pressure the State legislature to change this.
Question 4 would establish something called public safety enforcement officers, who are like police, but do not carry weapons and cannot arrest people. These officers could be a strong tool to help combat illegal dumping and other community nuisances that the City currently lacks resources to address.
Pennsylvania Courts Explained
The State has an excellent resource to visually explain the structure of our courts, here. From the most powerful court to the least, there are the following courts:
Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has seven justices who are directly elected by all Pennsylvanians. This court primarily hears appealed cases referred from lower courts.
Superior Court/Commonwealth Court: These are co-equal courts. The Superior Court has 15 judges who are directly elected by all Pennsylvanians. It primarily deals with appeals from the Court of Common Pleas. The Commonwealth Court has nine judges who are directly elected by all Pennsylvanians. They primarily deal with civil cases brought against the State.
Court of Common Pleas: This court has 451 judges directly elected from 60 districts. They primarily deal with general trials and appeals from the Minor Courts.
Minor Courts: Philadelphia is a unique case here. For the rest of the State, there are 516 judges directly elected from each county. Philadelphia has 27 judges directly elected locally, and this court is otherwise known as the Philadelphia Municipal Court. It deals primarily with preliminary hearings, bail, and deciding whether to refer cases to higher courts.
Elections only occur on odd-numbered years. Judges and justices can serve an unlimited number of terms until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 75. Judges and justices in the Supreme Court, Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, and Court of Common Pleas all serve 10-year terms. Judges in Minor Courts serve six-year terms. All judges and justices outside of the Minor Courts are not elected in the traditional method. Instead, they go to something called a “retention vote,” which is simply a yes-no referendum. If a simple majority vote “yes,” then they are retained for another term. If they do not get a “yes” vote, or if they leave their term for any reason, the governor then appoints a new judge or justice who has to be confirmed by the State Senate. This judge or justice serves until a special election can be held to replace them. Judges in the Minor Courts, including Philadelphia’s Municipal Court, are directly elected by popular vote by the normal method.
Because of this system, elections for Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Commonwealth Court are rare. For instance, the next Supreme Court election is in 2025.
Each voter can vote for two candidates. The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s recommendations are below.
Highly recommended: Daniel McCaffery (D)
Recommended: Megan McCarthy King (R), Christylee Peck (R)
Court of Common Pleas
Each voter can vote for six candidates. The Philadelphia Bar Association’s recommendations are below.
Highly recommended: James Crumlish (D), Anthony Kyriakakis (D), Christopher Hall (D), Tiffany Palmer (D)
Recommended: Jennifer Schultz (D), Joshua Roberts (D), Craig Levin (D), Nicola Serianni (D), Wendi Barish (D), Leon Goodman (D), Beth Grossman (R), Cateria McCabe (D), Kendra McCrae (D), Vicki Markovitz (D), Laurie Dow (D), Henry Sias (D), Carmella Jacquinto (D), James Berardinelli (D), Kay Yu (D)
Each voter only gets one vote. The Philadelphia Bar Association’s recommendations are below.
Recommended: David Conroy