Rebecca Rhynhart was the Top Vote-Getter in Philly's 2017 Elections


(Photo: Rebecca Rhynhart)

After the 2017 primary election, there was a weird, and frankly pretty sexist, line of commentary out there that said Rebecca Rhynhart's blowout primary win over four-term incumbent Controller Alan Butkovitz was really due to Larry Krasner's coattails despite Rhynhart winning more votes than Krasner.

Larry Krasner's District Attorney campaign, of course, generated a lot of organic excitement both locally and nationally. But Rhynhart's campaign also had a lot of buzz on its own, especially among women who were eager to vote some more qualified women into office after the 2016 Presidential election outcome.

While it was definitely true that the existence of two competitive primaries at the top of the ticket had a synergistic effect on voter interest and turnout, in the end, Rhynhart won more wards and more votes, and it would be pretty odd to say that someone who received more votes rode in on the coattails of someone who received fewer. 

Sure, you might say, but Krasner was also part of a multi-candidate field, whereas the Controller race was head-to-head. That he came out of a seven-way race with 38% of the vote indicates that probably a lot of primary voters turned out specifically to vote for Krasner, and then also happened to favor Rhynhart over Butkovitz.

There's no way to measure who 2017 primary voters were most enthusiastic about supporting without any polling data, but we did get a more apples-to-apples look at this question in the general election this week, where both the District Attorney race and the Controller race were two-person contests. 

The vote tallies aren't yet complete, but with 98% reporting, we know that Rebecca Rhynhart will be the top vote-getter of this election, receiving 158,502 votes to Krasner's 147,666—a difference of 10,836 votes. 

Screenshot_2017-11-08_21.49.17.pngNone of this is to diminish Larry Krasner's win. Despite his controversial reputation with precisely the types of voters who repeatedly reelected tough-on-crime D.A. Lynne Abraham, Krasner still won the general election with 75% of the vote. That's a huge accomplishment.

The fact that Rhynhart won nearly 11,000 more votes than Krasner though should put the coattails question to rest. 

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  • Mitchell Swann
    commented 2017-11-10 13:53:43 -0500
    I think your analysis is a bit flawed. Given the absolute tallies, it seems that about 6,000 people that voted in the DA contest did not vote in the Controller contest. I don’t know what that says about “coattails”, but it does say that some people did not feel that the Controller contest was ‘important’ enough to vote on or they did not know enough to cast what they felt was an informed vote. Maybe Ms. Rhynhart did “better’” than Mr. Krasner comparatively because Mr. Tomlinson had much less publicity leading up to the general election than Ms. Grossman and that the Controller race was less ‘controversial’?