Cherelle Parker and David Oh square off in Philly mayoral race’s only debate

The candidates squared off in their only face-to-face contest at the studios of KYW Newsradio.

debate stage with Cherelle Parker and David Oh

Mayoral candidates Cherelle Parker and David Oh facing off for a debate October 26, 2023. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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The two candidates running to be Philadelphia’s next mayor met for what is most likely their only ‘true’ debate of the campaign Thursday morning.

The debate at the studios of KYW Newsradio had no big bombshells that could change the face of the election, but Democrat Cherelle Parker did offer new comments to clarify her plans to use the National Guard in Philadelphia.

In a forum hosted by 6ABC earlier this week, Parker said the Guard would be “part of the solution” to help “shut down the open-air drug market in Kensington that’s being allowed to prevail.”

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Oh asked her about that plan during the Thursday debate. She explained the Guard’s capabilities to provide assistance go far beyond just carrying guns and standing watch on the streets.

“The National Guard can assist in providing medical assistance, the National Guard can help in the distribution of food,” she said.

Oh said the National Guard comes armed with automatic weapons and not the proper police training to work in the neighborhoods. Parker responded after the event that she did not expect the National Guard to participate in policing duties.

Mayor Jim Kenney has asked for assistance from the National Guard in the past, but only to help secure city structures rather than for policing.

The candidates also squared off on a number of issues, including public safety, a new Philadelphia police commissioner, stop and frisk, year-round schools, and the 76ers arena among other things. Republican David Oh reiterated his opposition to the plans for an arena on Market Street. “If we have an arena there it will probably be the end of Chinatown,” he said.

Parker said constitutional stop and frisk could help fight the rising crime issues in Philadelphia.

“Any tool in government that is misused and/or abused gives the public just cause to not trust,” she said. “That’s why community policing is so essential. Officers walking the beat riding a bike, getting to know the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. They’re as guardians and not warriors. That will be one of my major vehicles to rebuild trust between the community along with the police.”

Parker and Oh have participated in several candidate forums, but this morning’s hour-long meeting was the first and likely only true debate of the campaign. With a seven-to-one edge in voter registration for Democrats, Oh faces a massive uphill battle to win on November 7.

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