First Philly Mayoral candidate takes the leap

    The 2015 Philadelphia mayor’s race has it’s first official candidate. Former city development official Terry Gillen declared her candidacy Friday in the Graduate Hospital area where she was a Democratic ward leader in the past.

    She cited 25 years of work in her neighborhood along with her experience in policy-making as key qualifications for the office. She’s particularly proud of her work under Mayor Ed Rendell on re-use of the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

    “Vision and persistence are the hallmarks of the work I’ve done in the past, and I’ll bring those traits as Philadelphia’s mayor,” she said.

    So what’s her vision?

    “My vision for the city is one where every school is a high functioning school – not just some schools, not just schools for the connected, but every school,” Gillen said, “where we’re competing with Boston and New York for jobs, and everybody who needs a job is working in a family-functioning job.”

    She said she’ll have more to say about the specifics of the education problem as the campaign unfolds and current funding battles play out.

    Gillen has never held elected office, but worked in the mayoral administrations of Rendell and Michael Nutter.

    She’s well known to government insiders but largely unknown among voters. She begins the race without much traditional political support in a field that may include State Senator Anthony Williams, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, City Councilman Jim Kenney, attorney Ken Trujillo, and possibly Council President Darrell Clark.

    Her announcement Saturday didn’t draw any elected officials or well-known political players (she said she didn’t reach out to any). But there’s a precedent she might draw some hope and inspiration from.

    The last time we had a mayor’s race for an empty seat, eight years ago, the first candidate to announce his bid in July of 2006 was a City Councilman who had the support of exactly none of his Council colleagues. Only one elected official attended his announcement – a state representative from his Council district – and three Democratic ward leaders were there (one was Gillen).

    He entered a race full of heavyweights, including two members of Congress and a self-funding millionaire, and spent months in last place in of a field of five. But it all worked out. His name was Michael Nutter.

    Gillen mentioned Nutter’s name when I asked whether she could establish herself as a credible candidate, and added, “I think people need to focus less on the horse race and viability and more on who they think is the most qualified.”

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