Finance reports give insight to Philly at-large council race

There’s only a few days remaining until Pennsylvania’s May 19 primary — when Philadelphia voters will choose a new mayor and may elect to dramatically shake up City Council.

Council’s seven at-large seats are up for grabs and at least one will be taken by a newcomer.

According to the city charter, at least two of these seats go to Republicans as the minority party. Historically, based on the city’s political demographics, Philly’s at-large council members typically split five for Democrats and two for the GOP.

To focus on the Democrats: on primary day, voters can choose five candidates from a list of both incumbents and newcomers.

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The incumbents are Wilson Goode Jr., Bill Greenlee, Blondell Reynolds Brown, and Ed Neilson.

Based on name recognition and connections to power brokers, incumbents typically win. But, in this race, at least one new face will join the 17-member body because Jim Kenney retired his at-large seat to run for mayor.

On Friday the candidates had to file campaign reports reflecting their fundraising and expenses through May 4.

So what did we learn from poring through tomes of campaign finance reports?

1) Only four of the 16 candidates have more than $100,000 left in the bank.

At-large Candidate

Total cash raised

Cash spent

Cash on hand

Wilson Alexander




Jenne Ayers




Marnie Aument-Loughrey




Blondell Reynolds-Brown




Carla Cain




Sherrie Cohen




Allan Domb




Wilson Goode Jr.




Derek Green




Bill Greenlee




Helen Gym




Ed Neilson




Frank Rizzo




Paul Steinke




Isiah Thomas




Tom Wyatt




As the chart above shows, real estate developer Allan Domb is in the best financial shape coming down the stretch, with a quarter of a million dollars left in the bank. Domb has already been advertising heavily on television. His stockpile of cash suggests he’ll continue pounding the airwaves until the primary.

Public education advocate Helen Gym has the next most remaining cash, with more than $210,000. She’s followed by attorney Sherrie Cohen (daughter of former city councilman David Cohen) and former Reading Terminal Market general manager Paul Steinke.

2) Helen Gym and charter school dean Isaiah Thomas are grassroots powerhouses. Gym received about $14,000 in individual micro-donations of $50 or less — more than any of the mayoral candidates.

Thomas raised just over $11,000 from these donations — more than all the mayoral candidates expect Jim Kenney.

Gym’s finance reports reveal that she has garnered the financial support of some of the most well known participants and onlookers in the Philadelphia public education scene.

Gym received donations from SRC Chairman Marjoie Neff ($100), former school district superintendent David Hornbeck ($250), former district chief financial officer Michael Masch ($600), former district deputy superintendent and CEO Leroy Nunery ($100), former School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky ($1,000) Public Citizens for Children and Youth executive director Donna Cooper ($150), Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia attorney Michael Churchill ($1,350), and Research for Action executive director Kate Shaw ($275).

Gym also received three $11,500 donations from political committees related to the American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Thomas has major labor support as well. He received $18,500 from Pennsylvania SEIU COPE, $6,000 from District 1199c, $7,000 from Local 32BJ PA American Dream Fund, and $5,000 from laborers’ union. Thomas also received $4,000 in support from PA Working Familes, a relatively new progressive political committee.

Thomas can also boast of being the only at-large candidate bouyed by an NFL player. New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Jahri Evans gave Thomas a $2,900 boost. The two share Frankford High School as an alma mater.

3) The candidates are betting on themselves.

Real estate developer Allan Domb cut his campaign checks worth $560,000. Sherrie Cohen loaned her campaign $179,000. Wilson Goode Jr. gave his campaign more than $100,000. Dilworth Paxson attorney Tom Wyatt has given his campaign more than $75,000.

Of the $29,000 Frank Rizzo Jr. has raised, $25,000 came from his own wallet. Gym and incumbent Bill Greenlee also loaned their respective campaigns $25,000.

4) Some other connections of note:

Sherrie Cohen received $5,000 from carpenters union, $4,000 from PA Working Families party, $2,500 from plumbers union, $1,000 from the local operating engineers union.

Cohen also donated $25,000 to Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, which has endorsed her in the at-large race.

Incumbent Ed Neilson received checks from a host of business and labor groups, including  Philadelphia Council of AFL-CIO ($250), Electricians Union Local 98 ($11,500), the steamfitters union ($5,000), Comcast ($3,000), IUPAT District Council 21 ($11,500), Clear Channel ($500), Gas Works employees ($1,000), real estate developer Bart Blatstein ($2,600), and AT&T ($250).

Friends of Darrell Clarke kicked in $10,000, and former School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos gave Neilson $100.

Derek Green, longtime special counsel to recently retired city councilwoman Marian Tasco, recieved $5,000 from former city council president Anna Verna’s committee. Green also raised $5,000 from electricians union local 98.

Blondell Reynolds Brown received $10,000 from the Pennsylvanians for Better Leadership, a political committee with ties to former Gov. Ed Rendell.

She also got a $1,000 boost from Kenneth Gamble, founder of Universal Companies.

Tom Wyatt, chair of the Passyunk Square Civic Association’s Education Committee, got a modest boost from several school reform advocates, including Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners executive director Mike Wang ($100), PennCAN executive director Jonathan Cetel ($250), as well as several employees of the Philadelphia School Partnership.

Wyatt also got a hand from a political committee representing Wawa ($2,000).

This disclosure: Randi Marazzo (wife of WHYY president Bill Marazzo) donated $2,000 to Wyatt between 2014 and 2015. Wyatt serves on WHYY’s community advisory board.

Allan Domb paid almost half a million dollars to DonnyBrook Production Services.

He also gave $10,000 to Sabatina & Associates Consulting Service, run by state Rep. John Sabatina, who’s become a key power broker in Northeast Philadelphia politics.

Wilson Goode Jr. received $5,000 from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, $3,000 from Unite Here, $750 from PECO PAC.

Goode donated $25,000 to the Democratic City Committee and $25,000 to the Democratic Campaign Committee, which share the same address.

Bill Greenlee received $1,000 from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, $2,000 from the Steamfitters Union, $10,000 from the friends of Darrell Clarke, $5,000 from Carpenters Union, $5,000 from District Council 21, $2,600 from real estate developer Bart Blatstein, and $500 from city controller Alan Butkovitz,

Greenlee also paid $25,000 to the Democratic Campaign Committee, as well as $25,000 to Genesis IV and $30,000 to Liberty Square Group PAC for “election day expenses.”

Former City Councilman Bill Green (current School Reform Commissioner) also filed a finance report.

He donated $2,900 out of his campaign holdings to Anthony Hardy Williams’ mayoral bid.

Green also gave $4,000 to Dougherty for Pennsylvania (The PAC supporting Kevin Dougherty’s state Supreme Court run).

Green also gave $1,000 to the PAC supporting Councilman Bobby Henon, and $500 to the PAC supporting Councilman Mark Squilla.

A previous version of this story errantly stated that former State Sen. Vince Fumo donated to Tom Wyatt. 

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