The State of the Philly City Council Money Race

Candidates running for office in 2023 filed their Sixth Tuesday Pre-Primary campaign finance reports this week, showing how much money they raised and spent since the first of the year, how they spent their resources, and who’s funding their campaigns. 

Candidates’ fundraising capacities, while an imperfect gauge of their electoral viability, are nonetheless an important indicator of their potential success at getting their message out to voters, especially for those running citywide. In the absence of any polling, fundraising stats and interest group endorsements are the best proxies we have for assessing viability.

Earlier this year we looked at the early filings of the candidates who filed before the end of 2022, and issued some early rankings of candidates’ viability. Now, with 39 days to go until the election, let’s check back in with the new information we have.

City Council District Races

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

The top Democratic fundraisers for District Council seats include Kenyatta Johnson (District 2 incumbent), Gary Masino (District 10 challenger), Jamie Gauthier (District 3 incumbent) and Mark Squilla (District 1 incumbent). 

The three top-raising incumbents were expected to face potential challenges this year, which ultimately didn’t pan out. Mark Squilla nearly faced off with ex-Reclaim Philadelphia political director Amanda McIllmurray, now in the At-Large race, and Kenyatta Johnson has faced competitive primaries the past two cycles. Two first-time candidates declared in the 2nd District, but neither campaign survived petition challenges. 

West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative president Jabari Jones, who declared in the 3rd District race against first-term Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, was also removed from the ballot after a successful petition challenge by Gauthier.

Gary Masino, whose campaign is a big priority for the building trades and other unions, was the most interesting case from this reporting cycle on the District side, as he was able to actually outraise long-time Republican incumbent Brian O’Neill’s total fundraising haul. O’Neill raised just $5,000 in 2023, but had raised over $363,000 prior to this reporting period. There’s still a long time to go until the fall general election, however.

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

The field for District Council seats has thinned quite a bit since the petition challenge period, with only a handful of even nominally competitive District races still in play. So far, those races haven’t attracted a lot of donor interest compared to those previously mentioned. 

In the 7th District, challenger Andrés Celin has kept it close with Quetcy Lozada’s totals. Lozada won the seat in November in the special election to replace Maria Quiñones Sánchez, who resigned to run for Mayor. Likewise in the 8th District, challenger Seth Anderson-Oberman has stayed competitive with Cindy Bass, outraising her $103,618 to $91,495 since the beginning of 2023. Bass raised about $35,000 more in total.

In the 9th District, incumbent Anthony Phillips is still facing Yvette Young on the ballot, after Janay Green was removed after a successful a petition challenge. But Phillips has a very large resource advantage over Young, who reported having only $750 cash-on-hand.

One note on the chart above: lone 5th District candidate Jeffrey Young’s entry looks off because he reported spending $9,500, but listed it as a campaign debt.

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

City Council At-Large

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

The At-Large Council field, while still large, has winnowed somewhat after petition challenges and withdrawals, and the new fundraising reports make it a lot clearer that only a few campaigns realistically have a shot of making it into the top 5. We took some liberties in winnowing the field a little further for purposes of looking only at those with an outside chance of winning.

The top five overall fundraisers include Kathy Gilmore-Richardson, who leads the pack considerably, followed by Isaiah Thomas, Rue Landau, Eryn Santamoor, and Jim Harrity. The next tier down includes Nina Ahmad, Amanda McIllmurray, and Job Itzkowitz.  

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

Since some of these campaigns did not start until after the first of the year, it’s also helpful to look at the 2023-only fundraising totals to get a sense of candidates’ relative momentum.There we see that Nina Ahmad and Job Itzkowitz are essentially tied for the fifth spot, coming within $2,000 of one another, followed by Jim Harrity and Amanda McIllmurray.

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

Looking at the At-Large candidates’ spending, Jim Harrity's campaign stands out for how much they have already spent as a proportion of the total raised, compared to some of the others. Their campaign may also have a somewhat different spending cadence than the rest, relying more on party-affiliated organizations.

(Image: Jon Geeting, Philadelphia 3.0)

There's still time left for some of these dynamics to shift as more candidates start to spend money communicating with voters, and as voters begin to tune into the primary. But there are some clear patterns emerging about who is most viable which can help voters and endorsing organizations narrow their choices about who to support.

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  • Jon Geeting
    published this page in Blog 2023-04-07 16:19:45 -0400