Philly City Council at-large seats will be filled by special election in November

Last week, just two vacancies on council were scheduled to be filled by special election. Now, all four open spots will be voted on in November.

Philadelphia City Hall (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Hall (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke has decided to fill the two at-large seats that were vacated by Alan Domb and Derek Green.

It’s a bit of a turnaround for Clarke, who only issued Writs of Election on September 9 to fill the seats left vacant by Maria Quiñones Sanchez and Cherelle Parker. Those two seats represent the Seventh and Ninth districts.

“It is vitally important that more than 339,000 residents of the Seventh and Ninth Districts have full, active representation in Council, with access to the specific kinds of constituent services and district-specific legislation that can only be provided by their district Council member,” Clarke said last week.

That announcement appeared to leave the at-large positions unfilled until the term expired next fall. “It’s important that our elections be as open and democratic as possible, I expect a full, robust process of candidates and voters considering all their options next year,” Clarke said at the time.

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Now, Clarke’s latest statement indicates the importance of having a full council with all seats filled.

“It is vitally important that City Council be able to conduct its business, whether that is passing legislation, considering an override of a mayor’s veto, or even legislation to change the Home Rule Charter,” Clarke said. “For all these reasons, I believe it’s incumbent that Council have a full complement of members as soon as possible.”

Clarke also noted the possibility that other, current Council members may also be considering resigning their seats to run for mayor next year.

The political parties in Philadelphia will nominate candidates to run in the November special elections, and those nominees will appear on the Election Day ballot. The winners will serve the remainder of the unexpired terms through December 2023. With Democrats having an approximate 7 to 1 voter registration edge, their candidate usually has a clear path to winning the special election.

Winning the special election doesn’t always guarantee victory in next year’s election for a full four-year term.  There have been several special election council winners who failed in a general election.

The City Commissioners will now have to make room on the November ballot citywide for the two additional election spots and have the ballots ready in time to send out for those who request a mail ballot or who want to vote by absentee ballot.

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