Helen Gym rallies with Bernie and AOC as Philadelphia’s primary nears
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Philly’s primary would be a ‘street fight,’ won by the candidate who could best turn out their supporters.Listen 1:21
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Democratic mayoral candidate Helen Gym rallied with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ahead of Philadelphia’s primary election on Tuesday.
At Franklin Music Hall on Sunday, Gym addressed more than 1,000 attendees and urged them to show their support for her at the polls this week.
Gym spent most of her time on stage discussing her “Green New Deal,” which she said aims to tackle environmental issues, provide clean streets, affordable housing, and reliable public transit.
She criticized past leaders for not getting done what she wants to see happen. She said if she’s the next Mayor, saying she’s fighting for “the Philadelphia that we deserve.”
“Throughout this campaign, so many people who always felt like they had the right to run this city called our ideas too radical, too complicated, and our dreams too big,” Gym said. “And what I know is their ideas were far too small. They played it safe all their lives, sitting in elected office and sitting in austerity politics and bureaucracies or making money hand over fist while we went out there and fought and built. And this is our time and this is our moment.”
U.S. Sen. Sanders and U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Crotez lent their progressive star power to Gym for the evening rally. Sanders has a long history of trying to push the Democratic Party towards more progressive policies. Ocasio-Cortez has also taken up that effort on the House side since taking office in 2019.
Sanders told the crowd of Gym supporters her chances of becoming Philly’s 100th Mayor comes down to two words: “election turnout.”
“This is likely going to be a very close election,” Sanders said. “And if everybody here does nothing more, and I know you already have, but go out and bring two of your friends or family members or coworkers who otherwise would not have voted. If you do that, there is no doubt in my mind that Helen is the next mayor of Philadelphia.”
In 2019, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress after winning New York’s 14th District. Her campaign was based on “an unalloyed leftist progressive platform,” which led to her upset win over Joe Crowley, who hadn’t even been primaried in more than a decade until Ocasio-Cortez ran against him.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, this year’s mayor’s race is the most expensive one in the city’s history. Ocasio-Cortez criticized politicians looking to “buy themselves an election,” and said Gym will keep Philadelphia “safe from inequity and inequality.”
“They’ve got money, but we’ve got the people,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I always say to my team back home, progressives win in a street fight, and that’s what we’ve got here in Philly today, a street fight. We need to be knocking on every door, texting all our friends. We talk about youth organizing up, which means people need to call their tías, their tíos, their uncles, their cousins, todo, everybody.”
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are two of Gym’s most notable endorsements during her campaign. Gym has also received endorsements from Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who is the city’s first woman and person of color elected to the role.
Gym’s also been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, State Sen. Nikil Saval, Pa. House Representatives Rick Krajewski and Elizabeth Fiedler, and Philadelphia City Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier and Kendra Brooks.
Gym could become the first woman to be elected Philadelphia’s mayor, but that’s only if she emerges victorious against former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, former city Councilmember Cherelle Parker, and six other candidates.
Rhynhart spent the weekend rallying in Cliveden Park with former mayor Michael Nutter, one of three mayors who have endorsed her campaign. She’s also received endorsements from former Pennsylvania Governor and Philly mayor Ed Rendell, former mayor John Street, and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Editorial Board.
Parker rallied at Carpenters Benefits Hall on Saturday, featuring a performance by rapper Freeway. She’s received endorsements from U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, state Sen. Sharif Street, unions including SEUI 32BJ, IBEW Local 98, and Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters. Parker’s also endorsed by the National Organization for Women- Philadelphia Chapter, Black Women’s Leadership Council, and the Philadelphia Black Clergy.
An Emerson College Polling/PHL 17 survey found the race still at a dead heat within the margin of error. Gym was in front in that poll at 20.5% of the vote, followed by Parker with 18.2%, Rhynhart with 17.7%, and former city Councilmember Allan Domb at 13.6% with a margin of error of 3.9%.
Results from a Committee of 70 poll survey released in April had Rhynhart at 18%, Parker at 17%, Gym at 15%, and Domb at 14%. That poll had a “credibility interval” (similar to a margin of error) of 3.8%, which wipes away the difference between the leaders.
Domb spent the weekend speaking with potential voters on Mother’s Day, attending the Kensington Derby and Arts Festival, and visiting diners in the city.
If Gym comes out on top Tuesday, she’ll face off against the lone Republican mayoral candidate, former city Councilmember David Oh, who could also become the city’s first ever Asian American mayor.
In an interview with WHYY News, Gym said if she were to face Oh in November, the race wouldn’t be about “which faces kind of get represented,” but “who represents the ways in which people really want to live.”
“I think you’ll see a stark contrast around how Asian Americans are very diverse in terms of our thinking, our politics, our ideology, and definitely our track record,” Gym said. “There’s no question that I think, you know, the movement of AAPIs in politics is, you know, has another transformative effect. And it’s my hope that people, again, are really energized.”
Oh was the first Asian American ever elected to City Council, while Gym became the first Asian American woman Council member.
On Tuesday, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The general election takes place on Nov. 7. The deadline to register for the primary has since passed, but people can still register to vote in the November election by Oct. 23.
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