Last minute guide to mayoral primaries in Pennsylvania cities

    If you’ve been ignoring the literature stuffed in your mailbox, missed the television ads, and local media coverage of Tuesday’s primary elections, it’s not too late to become an informed voter.

    Registered Republicans and Democrats head to the polls for the Pennsylvania primary elections on Tuesday, May 19th. If you have been ignoring the literature stuffed in your mailbox, missed the television ads, or have been tuning out local news coverage for the past few months, it’s not too late to become an informed voter. To brush up on the candidates running in five mayoral primaries in the largest cities across the state, we’ve compiled a list of resources to help you decide who to support.

    Remember, polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. As long as you are in line to vote by 8 p.m., you will be allowed to cast your ballot. You only need to show ID if you’re a first-time voter or voting at a new polling location. If you’ve moved recently, need to find your polling place, or want to check your party affiliation,  just type in your address and other information in the Pennsylvania Department of State database.


    Six candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination in Philadelphia. Out of about one million registered voters in Philadelphia, about 800,000 are registered Democrats, so it’s highly likely that Tuesday’s election will determine the next mayor.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    For the “CliffsNotes” version about each of the candidates including key facts and a short biography check out NewsWorks/WHYY’s Pocket Voters Guide. The guide also looks at candidates for other races in Philadelphia. You can compare the candidates side by side with PlanPhilly’s Mayoral Matchmaker tool — it’s actually fun.

    For a more in-depth look at the mayoral primary, listen to WHYY’s “Leading Questions,” an election series of three hour-long specials . Part one focuses on leadership, part two investigates the central issues of the race: education, police-community relations, and Philadelphia’s future as a possible energy hub. And the final installment examines the candidates records, including profiles of the front runners.

    Don’t have time to listen to an hour-long show, but you would like to know more about each candidate? Try reading or listening to the profiles below:

    Lynne Abraham, former Philadelphia District Attorney

    Nelson Diaz, former Common Pleas Court judge

    Jim Kenney, former Philadelphia city council member

    Doug Oliver, former Philadelphia Gas Works executive

    Milton Street, former State Senator

    Anthony Williams, State Senator

    The winner of Tuesday’s primary will most likely face Republican business executive Melissa Marie Bailey in the November general election.


    In Reading, a financially distressed city that falls under the state’s Act 47 law, five Democrats are challenging incumbent Vaughn Spencer for the job of mayor. For a quick look at each of the candidates, The Reading Eagle asked, “What is this election really all about?” Responses ran the gamut from increasing economic development opportunities, providing a clean and safe environment, instilling trust in government, working with City Council, bringing a clear vision and plan, and improving the quality of life for residents. Read a Spanish language version of the candidates full responses.

    To hear directly from  five of the six Democratic mayoral candidates, you can watch the hour-long League of Women Voters candidates forum on BCTV or read the Reading Eagle’s mayoral candidate questionnaires:

    Tim Daley, Berks County Habitat for Humanity chief executive

    Jeffrey Nein, retired Reading city firefighter

    Louis Perugini, business owner

    Wally Scott, former district judge

    Vaughn Spencer, Reading city mayor

    John Wiggins, former truck driver

    The winner of Tuesday’s primary will most likely face Jim McHale, a real estate investor who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.


    When Mayor Tom Leighton, a Democrat, decided not to run for a fourth term, the race for the next mayor of Wilkes-Barre became wide open. Four Democratic candidates are vying for the nomination in Tuesday’s primary, with one Republican candidate, Frank Sorick, running unopposed in the primary. One Independent candidate, Robert McHale is expected to join Sorick and the Democratic nominee on the ballot in November’s general election.

    You can hear from five of the candidates including Sorick by watching a video of the Wilkes-Barre mayoral forum by the Wilkes-Barre Independent Gazette that took place earlier this month. Read individual profiles on the four candidates running in the Democratic primary by the Times Leader:

    George Brown, Wilkes-Barre city council member

    Darlene Duggins-Magdalinski, community activist

    Tony George, former Wilkes-Barre police chief

    Brian Kelly, former IBM systems engineer


    Two Republican candidates and one Democrat are challenging incumbent Republican Matt Pacifico for the job of mayor. After the city voted to adopt home rule last year, the job has changed. For the first time in more than 30 years, the job has expanded from a part-time position with little clout, to a full-time position with the same voting weight as a city council members. Although the structure of Altoona’s local government has changed, the city still faces serious financial troubles and remains in the state’s Act 47 program for distressed cities. Jobs and the economy were hot button issues in a recent debate between the three Republicans. You can read about the debate and find short background information about all four candidates at the Altoona Mirror.

    You can also listen to Q & A podcast interviews with each of the Republican candidates on the local talk radio station, WRTA’s, “The 11th Hour with Doug Herendeen:”

    Bruce Kelley, Altoona City Council member

    Matt Pacifico, Altoona mayor

    Pete Starr, former Altoona police chief

    The winner of the Republican primary will most likely face Democrat and Blair County assistant public defender Jason Imler in November.


    Incumbent Mayor John Linder faces a tough primary with challenger and popular State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland on Tuesday. Although the two Democrats never had the chance to debate at a public forum, their campaigns heated up early. Kirkland landed the endorsements of the city’s Democratic committees and called for the resignation of Chester’s police commissioner. The main focal points of the campaigns have been addressing the violence plaguing the city and improving it’s economic situation — Chester is also under the state’s financial recovery program, Act 47. Last year, there were 30 murders in the city of about 34,000 residents — the highest number of people killed in more than a decade.

    You can read a profile about both Linder and Kirkland in The Delaware County Daily Times.

    The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Republican and former Chester Mayor Wendell Butler.

    Check back at Keystone Crossroads on Wednesday for results of these races.



    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal