In the race for Philly mayor, Parker says she’s not slowing down: ‘Nothing is ever a cakewalk’

Democratic nominee Cherelle Parker spoke with WHYY host Jennifer Lynn ahead of Tuesday’s election.

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Cherelle Parker speaking at a podium

File photo: Democratic Candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia, Cherelle Parker, speaks to union members and supporters at rally in support of 32BJ SEIU ahead of contract negations for cleaners in Center City on August 29, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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On this Election Day Eve, nominees for the two major parties for Mayor of Philadelphia, Democrat Cherelle Parker and Republican David Oh, continue to organize their street campaigns to get out the vote.

WHYY’s Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn spoke with each nominee as they closed in on one of the biggest decision days of their political careers.

On Saturday, Cherelle Parker’s campaign team led a procession of vehicles assembled for a full day of community campaign stops across the city. At the Bakers Center shopping complex in Northwest Philadelphia, Parker said she takes nothing for granted being the Democrat candidate in a fiercely blue city.

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Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Jennifer Lynn, WHYY Morning Edition host: You can’t sit back. You have a contender with a name, David Oh. Is this a victory lap, or do you know there’s a fight to still fight?

Cherelle Parker, Democrat nominee for Philadelphia mayor: Victory lap? I am a product of extremely humble beginnings. I am a Black woman who’s lived at the intersection of race and gender my entire life. Nothing is ever a cakewalk, and nothing is ever given to you. I’ve had to earn my place and station at any table I’ve ever been at and this election is no different — so you won’t ever see me stop working until 8 p.m. on Tuesday night when the polls close.

Lynn: Someone in the parking lot here at the ShopRite said, “People do not outwork Cherelle.”

Parker: Wow. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done, what I’ve been taught to do. It’s what I should be doing when you look at all that Philadelphia and the dynamic people in it have deposited into my life.

Lynn: You’re a moderate, some say you’re going further and further right as we hear more and learn more about you in a city that has built quite a progressive scene. Are you concerned the Democratic progressives will not jump aboard to vote for you on Tuesday?

Parker: Listen, I want you to know I’ve done everything and will continue to do everything in my power to earn the support of the vote of as many Philadelphians as possible with my platform, you know, making Philadelphia the safest, cleanest, greenest big city in the nation that provides access to economic opportunity for all. Let me say this to you and let me be clear, no matter where I’ve gone — I don’t care who the audience has been — I have never changed my position on the issue and or my vision. I am who I am. And let me also be really clear in letting you know that I was progressive before progressive was a thing. One of the things that I talked about in the primary is that I would not be afraid to make the tough decisions that are necessary to bring some order back to our city — and I won’t go back on my word.

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Lynn: Are you concerned Black women voters who supported you in May — and many did  — don’t really want a mayor who supports stop and frisk and keeping the option open to bring in the National Guard? I can look back to the 60s in Wilmington, Delaware when the National Guard was brought in after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. That did not go well — they stayed for 10 months. It didn’t help the historically Black situation where people were dubious and distrustful of police.

Parker: First, let me just say that Black people are not a monolith, and I reject, you know, any notion that suggests as such. We can agree to disagree on different issues, but we agree about Philadelphia needing to be safer. I publicly affirmed my support for Terry stops — Terry stops. Terry stops.

Lynn: Some will say that is the same thing as stop and frisk.

Parker: It is more salacious. It sells more papers or gets more clicks. Terry stops, which is what I affirm — and I will not take it away as a tool to be used by our law enforcement to make public safety our number one priority. It’s when a police officer must have just cause and reasonable suspicion, to know that a crime has been, will be, or is being committed.

So you can describe it as “stop and frisk,” in that emotionally charged way where it was applied unconstitutionally, and Black and brown men in particular were profiled and stopped by police just because of their race. But I’m referring to Terry stops, Terry stops, Terry stops, and the more the press says “stop and frisk,” the more you’re going to hear me say, “Terry stops” — and I’m not going to run from my position.

Lynn: Have Black women mayors been burdened with cleaning up the mess cities find themselves in, regarding public safety in particular?

Parker: Yeah, let me just say that I am so super excited I can think of some dynamic Black women mayors. We all stand on the shoulders of some dynamic women who never got an opportunity to do what they’ve done and what I am trying to do right now. I think wherever women —  Black women in particular — go, we’re always gonna give what we do a thousand and one percent because it’s what we do. We haven’t had the privilege of not doing it our entire lives, and I think wherever we’ve gone, we do the best we can with what we have.

Lynn: You’re organized with supporters on the street leading up to the election. There are other voices in this city of Philadelphia. I am speaking about the many rallies that have been taking place following the Israel-Hamas war. You responded — while attending an event — on Instagram with a sign saying “Philly Stands with Israel.” As mayor. How do you support citizens without offending others?

Parker: Let me say this, although it is true the mayor doesn’t have any formal authority and decision-making relative to Middle East policy or any foreign policy. For that matter, we have to recognize that the challenges there have significantly impacted both our Muslim and our Jewish communities, and the loss of innocent lives there. It is painful to both constituencies — the Muslim community and the Jewish community — we lack humanity if we don’t see it and identify it. I wholeheartedly, you know, reject Islamophobia. I reject anti-Semitism, and any form of hatred because that is who I am, essentially. I am also proud of the very strong relationships that I have with the Muslim community and the Jewish community, quite frankly, that transcend politics and were established long before I became a public official or a candidate for mayor. So quite frankly, I stand on my faith, I’m a praying woman, and prayer works. That is what I’m doing right now. I offer a prayer for peace for all communities and constituencies that are impacted by what we’re seeing take place now.

Lynn: And you said that on social media just as you said it now. What is the biggest misconception about Cherelle Parker?

Parker: I’m not sure. I mean, I think you have to take time to get to know me.

I think it’s — and this is really interesting. People fear what they don’t know, what they’ve never taken the time to learn. I don’t think that enough people know about my body of work because I’ve been laser-focused on getting things done and I haven’t done well enough as others have at shouting from a bullhorn saying, “Hey, look at me, this is what I’ve done.”

It’s not who I’ve been. Whatever place and space I’ve been in life, I’ve gotten the work done, and then I moved onto the next thing because that’s who I am and, and what I do.

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