Is Philadelphia ready for a woman in the mayor’s office?
Terry Gillen, a former director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority who worked for Mayors Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter, has formed a political committee and scheduled a fundraiser June 30 for a possible mayoral run.
“I’m seriously exploring a run for mayor,” she told me yesterday. “I’d say I’m likely to run.”
Gillen is the only woman so far among those who’ve expressed interest in the 2015 race. Her candidacy comes at a time when we’re seeing considerable commentary on the lack of women among Pennsylvania’s political elite.
The discussion is prompted by the poor showing of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and the defeat of two women in the Democratic primary for her congressional seat, leaving Pennsylvania with the country’s largest all-male congressional delegation.
When I asked Gillen how she thought gender might factor into her chances, she said she had no sense of that, but it isn’t why she’d be running.
“Philadelphia really needs to keep making progress creating jobs. We’ve got to tackle the school once and for all,” she said, “and I think that my experience working for Mayor Rendell and Mayor Nutter position me well to tackle those issues.”
Insider steps out front
Though she’s run for office twice before, Gillen is far better known among political and government insiders than voters. She worked for the state in economic development when Bob Casey was governor, then for Rendell where she developed the plan for reuse of the Philadelphia Navy Yard when it closed.
She was active in Nutter’s 2007 mayoral campaign, then headed the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority when Nutter took office. She later worked promoting the administration’s agenda in Washington.
Gillen was for many years the Democratic leader of the 30th Ward in the Grays-Ferry/Graduate Hospital area. She ran twice for elected office — for an at-large seat in City Council in 1999, and for state representative in 2004, losing in the Democratic primary each time. You can read her official bio here.
To be a viable candidate, Gillen will want to put together a team of supporters and raise enough money this summer and fall to look credible when contributors start getting serious as 2015 approaches. The invitation to her June 30 fundraiser lists 32 members of her host committee, including former California Congressman Tony Coelho and former restaurateur Judy Wicks.
The invitation seeks contributions of $250 and $500 to “meet Terry Gillen and support new leadership for Philadelphia’s future.”
Among other Democrats said to be considering a run next year are state Senator Anthony Williams, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, City Councilman Jim Kenney, former city solicitor Ken Trujillo and City Council President Darrell Clarke.