Cherelle Parker’s coalition was fueled in part by women looking for a steady hand

Cherelle Parker’s winning campaign for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Philadelphia had the support of many prominent politicians and influential institutions.

But the candidacy also gained the support of many committed residents. Like their counterparts across the political spectrum, many Parker voters say they really want change. They simply think that years of building influential connections, political success, and growing clout are the key to making it happen.

That’s the conclusion of some of Parker’s biggest supporters — women who helped sway votes for the candidate using their own personal networks.

These voters supported Parker for a variety of reasons, including her policies on education, public safety, her positive energy and her know-how. Or rather, a combination of all these things.

“I think it combines theory with practice,” Ninth Ward commission member Shoshana Bricklin told Billy Penn at the Cherelle’s Corner launch event, which brought together women interested in volunteering for Parker.

Listening to one of the mayoral debates this spring, Bricklin thought Rebecca Rhynhart presented “great ideas and best practices” — but that wasn’t enough, she said.

“Everything’s fine,” Bricklin said. “But she doesn’t know what it’s like to do it on the ground and Cherelle knows it.”

Providing ingredients by “keeping certain things away”

Parker’s experience – she served as a legislator a decade longer than her closest election rivals – often held back.

“I think people should stay in their lane,” said Catherine Stafford, a resident of Northwest Philadelphia’s 9th District, which Parker represented on the Council from 2015-2022. “He knows politics, he knows how to run a city. But these are other candidates, I don’t know anything about them.”

Another District 9 resident, Lynne Wooden, also praised Parker’s work as District 9 representative over the past seven years.

“Everything that we asked for that we didn’t want in our neighborhood … she helped us work things out the right way so that we could keep certain elements out of our neighborhood,” Wood said.

Donna, who says she has known Parker for years, is a fan of the mayoral candidate’s public safety plan.

“I like the fact that he wants to bring policing back into the community and increase the number of officers,” Donna said. “I also like that she talks [there will be] zero tolerance for abuse.”

Parker said he would put 300 additional officers on patrol, walking or driving regularly. This is not necessarily an straightforward task, given the overall national and local challenges in police hiring.

Cherelle Parker’s party supporters celebrate her victory in the May 16 Democratic mayoral primary. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Due to the crowded field of candidates, Parker’s vote total was relatively low compared to recent winners of the Democratic mayoral primary. Ultimately, she collected approximately PLN 79,000. votes compared to 131 thousand votes for Jim Kenney in 2015 and 107 thousand on Michael Nutter in 2007

But of the nearly 244,000 who voted for mayor, Parker’s share was more than enough to deliver a decisive victory: She received about 32% compared to Rhynhart’s 23% and Gym’s 22%.

Positive atmosphere and “she follows”

Annette, a Kensington resident, said she spoke to Parker after the mayors’ forum and was impressed. She liked the positive mood around the campaign.

“I haven’t seen anything negative towards Cherelle,” she told Billy Penn in April.

Indeed, there are no negative ads focusing on Parker aired during the campaigneven when polls clearly showed Parker was one of the favorites.

A super PAC, funded primarily by labor unions, supported Parker and ran negative ads about Rhynhart, Domb and Jeff Brown in the final weeks of the primary. However, its competitors or their affiliated PACs have not responded.

Sydney Denkins, an assistant principal at Edison High School in North Philly, looks forward to Parker “keeping his word.”

“I have known Cherelle Parker for a long time. She’s a very direct, grounded person who has sturdy beliefs,” Denkins said, “and follows through.”

Mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker at the Restoring Safety Forum hosted by Billy Penn, WHYY and CeaseFirePA in March 2023. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Denkins, who has worked in the Philly school district since 1995, is a fan of Parker’s education platform. This would mean that school would continue year-round with periodic breaks throughout the year, rather than concentrating in the summer.

“Other school districts have created year-round school calendars and it has worked,” she said.

A supporter named Dawn said it was “high time” for a woman to become Philly’s CEO,

“I thought about Helena and I don’t mind her,” Dawn said. But “knowing someone who works with the city and knew [Parker] when she was in Harrisburg…I thought, “This is it.”

He hopes Parker will gain support in the districts through the city.

“We are making a concerted effort to take away the rights of women, to take away the rights of LGBT people, and to take away the rights of anyone who is Different, and that worries me,” Dawn said. “I want someone in this large, diverse city who will talk to people where they are and make change.”

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