Election Day 2023 in Philadelphia took place November 7. This was our city’s big chance to vote for our future, to make a real impact. Sadly but not surprisingly, few of us decided to decide Philadelphia’s fate. Turnout was low — just over 30 percent.
(Note to the non-voting majority: No complaints from you for at least four years, ya hear?)
Here are the winners in Philadelphia’s 2023 election:
- MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Cherelle Parker, (Democrat)
- CITY COUNCIL: AT-LARGE SEATS: Nina Ahmad (D), Kendra Brooks (Working Families Party), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (D), James Harrity (D), Rue Landau (D), Nicolas O’Rourke (WFP), Isaiah Thomas (D)
- CITY COUNCIL: DISTRICT SEATS: 1. Mark Squilla (D); 2. Kenyatta Johnson (D); 3. Jamie Gauthier (D); 4. Curtis Jones Jr. (D); 5. Jeffrey Young Jr. (D); 6. Mike Driscoll (D); 7. Quetcy Lozada (D); 8. Cindy Bass (D); 9. Anthony Phillips (D); 10. Brian O’Neill (R)
- CITY COMMISSIONER: Seth Bluestein (R), Lisa Deeley (D), Omar Sabir (D)
- CITY CONTROLLER: Christy Brady (D)
- REGISTER OF WILLS: John Sabatina (D)
- SHERIFF: Rochelle Bilal (D)
- STATE SUPREME COURT: Daniel McCaffery (D)
- STATE SUPERIOR COURT: Jill Beck (D), Timika Lane (D); Superior Court Retention: Vic Stabile (R), Jack Panella (D)
- COMMONWEALTH COURT: Matt Wolf (D)
- PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS: Jessica Brown (D), James Eisenhower (D), Damaris Garcia (D), Chesley Lightsey (D), Brian McLaughlin (D), John Padova Jr. (D), Elvin Peter Ross III (D), Rajinderpal Sandher (D), Natasha Taylor Smith (D), Caroline Turner (D), Tamika Washington (D), Samatha Williams (D), Kay Kyungsun Yu (D). Common Pleas Retention: Jaqueline Allen, Giovanni Campbell, Ann Marie Coyle, Ramy I. Djerassi, Joseph Fernandes, Holly Ford, Timika Lane, Joseph Scott O’Keefe, Nina Wright Padilla, Paula Patrick, Sierra Thomas Street
- PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT: Colleen McIntyre Osbourne (D), Barbara Thomson (D); Municipal Court Retention: Marissa Brumbach, William Meehan Jr., Bradley Moss, David C. Shuter, Karen Simmons, Marvin L. Williams, Matt Wolf
- BALLOT QUESTION: OFFICE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Yes
MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA
Two candidates ran to be the 100th mayor of Philadelphia. Democrat Cherelle Parker won.
CHERELLE PARKER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Democrat Cherelle Parker is the Mayor-elect of Philadelphia. Parker previously represented the 9th District (neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast Philly) on Philadelphia City Council for two terms and was City Council’s majority leader.
On January 1, 2024, Parker will officially become the first woman mayor of Philadelphia and the city’s 100th mayor.
Parker grew up in Mount Airy and resides with her young son in West Oak Lane. Early in her career, she was the youngest African American woman elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where she served 10 years. She was also the first woman to chair the board of the Delaware River Port Authority.
On City Council, Parker chaired the Labor and Civil Service Committee and vice chaired the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development. She and Council President Darrell Clark developed Restore, Repair, Renew to help homeowners access low-interest home improvement loans; she was also behind increasing the Realty Transfer Tax to help eliminate backlog within income-based home repair programs. Parker championed a neighborhood and community policing plan, required developers to complete a Project Information Form to let neighbors know about impacts of their proposed projects, and partnered with CCP to establish Power Up Your Business, a small business training program, .
Parker has described her mission in government as “closing the gap between the haves and the have nots.” She says her priorities as mayor would be safety, jobs, and city services, promising to hire 300 more police officers, including community officers. She frequently talks of restoring a version of stop-and-frisk and making school year-round.
Organized labor, including the powerful building trades, strongly backs Parker, as do many members of city and state government.
CITY COUNCIL: AT LARGE MEMBERS
All seven at-large seats on our city’s governing body were up for grabs. Two seats must go to a non-majority party — and, in the first time in Philadelphia history, both of those seats went to the Working Families Party.
NINA AHMAD, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Nina Ahmad is a former Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement, where she launched the Commission on Women. She’s served as state president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a member of President Obama’s National Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Ahmad says her highest priority is addressing gun violence as a public health issue, for both the physical and the psychological traumas it causes.
At age 21, Ahmad immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh. She lives with her family in Mt. Airy and served on the board of the Philadelphia Foundation. This would be her first time holding elected office.
The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, building trades, and much of organized labor endorses Ahmad.
KENDRA BROOKS, WORKING FAMILIES PARTY (1-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Kendra Brooks is the first third-party candidate to win a seat on Council since 1980. Prior to joining Council, she’d been an activist, community organizer and teacher at Easterseals. She’s a single mom who put herself through college.
On Council, Brooks has championed stable, affordable housing, hosting and co-hosting hearings on the Landlord-Tenant Office and rent control. She introduced the Renters’ Access Act to prohibit landlords from discriminating against applicants based on prior evictions and would like the City to stop using private contractors to perform evictions.
Brooks has listed fighting for workers and a fairer economy, creating the opportunity for housing for all, treating gun violence as a health crisis, protecting reproductive rights, enacting environmental justice, and investing in public schools as her top priorities.
KATHERINE GILMORE RICHARDSON, DEMOCRAT (1-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
In 2020, Katherine Gilmore Richardson became the youngest woman to hold citywide office and youngest Black woman to serve on City Council. She’d previously served as chief of staff to Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown, spending 11 years as a legislative aide, and as vice president of the Philadelphia Young Democrats.
On Council, Gilmore Richardson is known for her efforts toward transparency and collaboration. Her legislative successes include giving grades of career technical education programs in the School District preference in civil service examinations (and therefore easier access to City jobs), requiring public hearings for labor contracts for the Philadelphia Police Department, instituting conflict resolution training in public schools, and advocating for sustainable investing in the pension fund. She is the lone Pennsylvanian to serve on the Local Government Advisory Committee for the EPA.
JAMES HARRITY, DEMOCRAT (INCUMBENT BY SPECIAL ELECTION): WINNER
Jim Harrity was executive director of the Office of State Senator Sharif Street, political director of the Philadelphia Democratic Party — right-hand to Party Chairman and former Congressman Bob Brady — and the political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party under Street. The Kensington resident was voted onto Council by special election in 2022, after Allan Domb resigned.
In Council, he introduced a bill to expand protections under the city’s existing Life Partnership ordinance to protect individuals regardless of gender, and joined Mike Driscoll in introducing a resolution for the City to enact its own minimum wage laws. He lists addiction treatment as a priority.
The Democratic City Committee and several unions have endorsed Harrity.
RUE LANDAU, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Rue Landau is a fair housing activist and attorney who worked at Community Legal Services and served as the director the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) and the Fair Housing Commission (FHC). Landau has taught housing law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, was director of law and policy at the Philadelphia Bar Association.
A member of the LGBTQ+ community, Landau (and her partner) received the first same-sex marriage license in Pennsylvania and reside in Bella Vista. If elected, Landau would be the first out LGBTQ+ member of Council — and it would be Landau’s first time holding elected office.
NICOLAS O'ROURKE, WORKING FAMILIES PARTY: WINNER
Nicolas O’Rourke won in his second run for an at-large seat on City Council. He cites his working-class family background as his inspiration for involvement in the Working Families Party. Proudly religious, he’s served as a youth and covenant minster at Living Water United Church of Christ in Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia.
O’Rourke’s platform is about creating an economy that supports families and affordable and accessible housing, including eviction prevention. He wants to eliminate gun violence and White supremacy in Philadelphia, protect reproductive rights, and advance racial, criminal and climate justice.
Sen. John Fetterman, District Attorney Larry Krasner, the PA Working Families Party, Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, Amistad Power Movement, One Pennsylvania, Reclaim Philadelphia endorse O’Rourke.
ISAIAH THOMAS, DEMOCRAT (1-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Isaiah Thomas chairs Council’s Streets and Education Committees and vice chairs the Children and Youth Committee. The East Oak Lane dad sponsored the Driving Equality bill, which bans police from making traffic stops for minor offenses like a broken tail light. Thomas introduced a Citizen Watchdog bill to pay residents for reporting quality-of-life issues and joined Councilmember Gilmore Richardson in creating a $1 Illuminate the Arts grant.
The former athletic director at Sankofa Freedom Academy, former president of the Coaches Association for Public League Boys Basketball, director of community affairs for the Controller’s office, and the co-founder of an end-of-summer camp for at-risk youth, Thomas has rallied against gun violence and hosts an annual Black-owned business crawl. His top priorities: poverty, affordable housing, gun violence and public education.
CITY COUNCIL: DISTRICT MEMBERS
In theory, all 10 mapped-out district seats on Philadelphia City Council were up for grabs. In reality, eight candidates ran unopposed, and the two with challengers retained their seats.
Along the Delaware River from South Philly, through Center City (Old City), Chinatown, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Kensington and Port Richmond.
MARK SQUILLA, DEMOCRAT (3-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Mark Squilla is a South Philly native known for constituent services, including helping to start Friends of groups and making generous contributions from campaign and discretionary funds to organizations in his district. Squilla chairs Council’s Streets Committee, has showed up to remedy trash and litter, and fought for the ban on single-use plastic bags.
In 2015, Squilla displayed unconventional initiative when, in 2015, he and his office auctioned off 89 distressed properties in his councilmanic district.
Parts of Center City, South and Southwest Philadelphia, including the Sixers, Eagles, Phillies, Flyers stadiums, Philadelphia International Airport, the Navy Yard and FDR Park
KENYATTA JOHNSON, DEMOCRAT (3-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Kenyatta Johnson is known citywide as much for his time in court as his time in City Hall, where he is one of Council’s preeminent joiners. Last year, he — and his wife — were acquitted of a 22-count indictment on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and tax fraud.
The Point Breeze resident and former state rep for the 186th legislative district chairs Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention and the Committee on Rules and Transportation and Public Utilities. He also serves on committees for Appropriations, Public Safety, Streets and Services, Licenses and Inspections, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Commerce and Economic Development, Children and Youth, and Fiscal Stability and Intergovernmental Cooperation committees.
West and Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods of Belmont, Powelton Village, West Powelton, Kingsessing, Elmwood Park, Mill Creek, Mantua, University City, Cobbs Creek, Walnut Hill, Spruce Hill, Garden Court, Cedar Park
JAMIE GAUTHIER, DEMOCRAT (1-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Jamie Gauthier took office as the “only elected official in the City of Philadelphia with a planning degree.” Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless, Gauthier pushes policy that encourages new affordable housing construction while preserving existing affordable housing.
She has collaborated on the Mixed Income Neighborhoods Overlay District (within which large new developments must keep 20 percent of their units affordable), and on the Emergency Housing Protection Act. Her 2022 #JustServicesPHL campaign calls for major investments in marginalized neighborhoods to improve City services to improve parks, add street lights, curtail illegal dumping, and green vacant lots.
Allegheny West, Belmont Village, East Falls, Manayunk, Overbrook, Overbrook Park, Roxborough, Wynnefield and sections of West Philadelphia
CURTIS JONES JR., DEMOCRAT (3-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Curtis Jones Jr. chairs the Committees on Public Safety, Commerce & Economic Development and vice chairs Parks & Recreation & Cultural Affairs. He was unanimously elected Majority Leader from 2012-2016.
Jones’ legislative achievements include making permanent the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males, amending Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” legislation, and the “CVN Bill” that allows police officers to use their discretion for certain minor offenses to avoid an arrest in favor of issuing a civil citation.
A proponent of community-based economic development, he launched a $1 million pilot project for mixed-use developments with the Office of Housing and Community Development, and establishing the Roxborough Environmental Control District to preserve the historic Manatawna Farm, wildlife habitat and green space.
North Central Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion, Lower Hunting Park, Ludlow, Yorktown, West Poplar, Fairhill, Brewerytown, Francisville, Spring Garden, Fairmount, Logan Square, and parts of Northwood, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Center City.
JEFFREY YOUNG JR., DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Jeffrey Young Jr. is an attorney and partner at the Wynnefield-based Legis Group, where he specializes in real estate, government affairs and business law. He served as legislative council for outgoing 5th District Councilmember Darrell Clarke. He is a committeeperson for and counsel to the 32nd Ward and served on the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males (now the Office on Black Male Engagement), the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, the Union Benevolent Association and the board of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation.
A graduate Girard College, Temple University and Rutgers School of Law, Young has listed the issues he will prioritize as: reduce gun violence, improve educational outcomes, target investment in youth, reform public safety institutions, create economic opportunities, and ensure sustainable and equitable development. This would be his first time holding elected office.
Northeast Philadelphia neighborhoods of Tacony, Mayfair, Holmesburg, Lexington Park, Holme Circle, Ashton, Bridesburg, Wissinoming, Port Richmond, East Torresdale, Castor Gardens, Oxford Circle, Rhawnhurst, Bells Corner, Winchester Park, Academy Gardens, Pennypack and Frankford
MIKE DRISCOLL, DEMOCRAT (INCUMBENT BY SPECIAL ELECTION): WINNER
Mike Driscoll is a former state representative of the 173rd District who replaced Councilmember Bobby Henon in June 2022, after Henon was found guilty on 10 of 18 federal charges on embezzlement and theft. Driscoll chairs the Department of Licenses and Inspections. Prior to occupying an elected office, he was V.P. of business development for the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union and deputy secretary of the Department of General Services under PA Gov. Bob Casey.
Driscoll’s priorities include developing the Delaware River waterfront and improving educational opportunities for young children and college graduates. He has co-sponsored legislation to reduce truck and trailer parking in his district, increase student pedestrian safety, allow Philadelphia to enact its own minimum wage law, and to change the City’s employee residency requirement. He and his family reside in Torresdale.
Castor Gardens, Fairhill, Feltonville, Frankford, Harrowgate, Hunting Park, Juniata, Kensington, Oxford Circle and Wissinoming.
QUETCY LOZADA, DEMOCRAT (INCUMBENT BY SPECIAL ELECTION): WINNER
Quetcy Lozada joined Council in a special election following the 2022 resignation of her former boss, former 7th District Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez. Before Lozada’s election, the Northwood resident was vice president of community engagement and organizing for the Hunting Park Christian service group Esperanza and director of community engagement for the District Attorney’s office.
Germantown, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill, Logan and parts of Olney, West Oak Lane, North Philadelphia and Feltonville.
CINDY BASS, DEMOCRAT (3-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Cindy Bass has represented her district since 2012 and served on the 22nd Ward Democratic Committee since 1998. Council’s Deputy Majority Whip chairs two committees: Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and Public Health and Human Services.
Bass co-sponsored a bill banning guns in rec centers and playgrounds, proposed tax amnesty for taxes owed from 2009 to 2019, launched a camera program to try to catch illegal dumping, and worked on issues such as maternal mortality rates, zoning, repealing the 10-year tax abatement and improving traffic safety near schools and childcare centers.
Mt. Airy, West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Olney, Fern Rock, Logan, Oxford Circle, Lawncrest, Burholme, and Summerdale
ANTHONY PHILLIPS, DEMOCRAT (INCUMBENT BY SPECIAL ELECTION): WINNER
Anthony Phillips won a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Councilmember Cherelle Parker. He’s the co-founder and former executive director of Youth Action, a program connecting Philly’s middle and high school students to service opportunities, and a former pre-college program director at TeenSHARP, a college prep organization that opens doors for minority youth. Phillips holds degrees from Bates College and Yale University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a devout Christian.
Phillips chairs the Committee on Children and Youth, and is a member of the Committees on Education, Intergenerational Affairs and Aging, Labor and Civil Service, Legislative Oversight, Technology and Information Services, Law and Government, Transportation and Public Utilities, and Neighborhood Services.
His goals upon re-election include: improving public safety through community engagement, improving schools through family engagement, rebuilding the District’s commercial corridors, and improving quality of life.
The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, former Mayor Rendell, mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, the building trades and more endorse Phillips.
Northeast Philadelphia: Bustleton, Fox Chase, Rhawnhurst
BRIAN O'NEILL, REPUBLICAN (11-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Brian O’Neill was first elected in 1979 and serves as Council’s Minority Leader and chair of the Technology and Information Services Committee. O’Neill has a reputation for constituent accessibility; he maintains four full-time offices in his district. He’s a proponent of his district’s public parks, proposed a bill to reduce truck and tractor-trailer parking in the Northeast, and has introduced bills to double the Homestead Exemption, moved to review and reform the zoning code.
The Philadelphia Republican Party endorses Neill.
Philadelphia City Commissioners are a three-member bipartisan board in charge of elections and voter registration. All three candidates were incumbents.
SETH BLUESTEIN, REPUBLICAN (APPOINTED INCUMBENT): WINNER
Seth Bluestein is running for his first election after being appointed to the position in 2022. Before his appointment, he was the Chief Deputy Commissioner for former City Commissioner Al Schmidt. He has worked in the commissioners office for the past 10 years in various positions, including as the department’s Chief Integrity Officer.
The Philadelphia Republican Party, Transport Workers Union Local 234, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, IATSE Local No. 8 have endorsed Bluestein.
LISA DEELEY, DEMOCRAT (2-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Lisa Deeley, Chairwoman of the Philadelphia City Commissioners office, was first elected in 2016. Before running for office, she worked for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and in the Controller’s office.
OMAR SABIR, DEMOCRAT (1-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Omar Sabir is running for his first re-election since winning in 2019. Prior to running for office, he worked in the Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives and State Senate. He has been active in the community through grassroots events and as the founder of a program that works to increase voter turnout.
The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee endorses Sabir.
The independent office of the City Controller conducts audits and analyses about the city’s financial operations. Rebecca Rhynhart vacated the post in November 2022 to run for mayor.
CHRISTY BRADY, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Christy Brady is a long-time employee of the Controller’s Office and a certified public accountant who has served as acting Controller, replacing Rebecca Rhynhart from November to February, until a judge ruled she couldn’t run for the office without stepping down.
The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, Philadelphia Building Trades Council, Philadelphia AFL-CIO, among 20 other unions, along with City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir and Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson endorse Brady.
REGISTER OF WILLS
The Register of Wills issues marriage licenses, proves that wills are valid, helps when a resident dies without a will, and keeps all kinds of records. Tracey Gordon, the current Register of Wills, lost in the primary.
JOHN SABATINA, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
John Sabatina is a longtime ward leader and patriarch of an influential Northeast Philly political family who defeated incumbent Tracey Gordon in the May primary. Sabatina has 30 years experience as an estate attorney and says he wants to clean up the office and its processes, including digitizing its records.
The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee and the building trades endorse Sabatina.
The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office provides security at all municipal courtrooms, manages all First Judicial Court-ordered foreclosures of property, handles evictions, issues orders for protection, and provides gun locks.
ROCHELLE BILAL, DEMOCRAT (1-TERM INCUMBENT): WINNER
Rochelle Bilal is running for her second term as Philadelphia’s first woman Sheriff. Prior to this role, she served 27 years in the Philadelphia Police Department.
As Sheriff, Bilal oversaw the retrieval of a record number of firearms from domestic abusers and operated community food drives. Her office has also been accused of transgressions such as hiring disgraced cops and spending taxpayer dollars at restaurants.
The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee endorsed Bilal.
STATE SUPREME COURT
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the highest court the Commonwealth, is a seven-justice body that has impacted redistricting, voting laws and rights — and could soon impact reproductive and gun rights. Democrats currently hold a 4-2 majority. There was one open seat for a 10-year term.
HON. DANIEL MCCAFFERY, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Daniel McCaffery serves as a Superior Court Judge, elected to this position in 2019. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Army, was an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia and served on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
The PA Bar Association has “highly recommended” McCaffery, describing him as an “experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism, good judicial temperament, and strong work ethic.” He has also received numerous endorsements from unions and advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and the Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia.
During a recent interview, he said he would work with all Supreme Court members and build “collegial relationships with the other justices.” Regarding abortion access, McCaffery has repeatedly discussed his disagreement with the Dobbs decision.
The PA Superior Court handles criminal and civil appeals in County Courts of Common Pleas, before a case can move on to the PA Supreme Court. Three-judge panels typically review cases. There were two newly open seats for 10-year terms.
JILL BECK, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Jill Beck is a Pittsburgh-based attorney who represented abused children at the nonprofit KidsVoice. Beck also worked as a law clerk under the Hon. Christine Donohue on the Superior Court and the PA Supreme Court.
The PA Bar Association “highly recommended” her, describing Beck as “intelligent, focused, and displays a temperament exhibiting patience, open-mindedness, tact, and humility. She possesses the highest legal ability, experience, and integrity.” Other endorsements: SEIU State Council, United Steelworkers, Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
HON. TIMIKA LANE, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Timika Lane has been a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge since 2013. Formerly a middle school educator in Maryland, Lane pursued legal studies and became a law clerk, certified child advocate specializing in family law, and public defender. She’s worked as chief legal counsel to a state senator, and executive direct of the PA State Senate State Government Committee, where she helped draft the legal challenge to the Pennsylvania photo ID law.
During her tenure as a Court of Common Pleas Judge, Lane oversaw the human trafficking docket in adult court and presided over domestic and family violence cases involving sexual assault, rape, and grand jury matters. The PA Supreme Court appointed her to the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee (CAPPAC); former Governor Wolf appointed her as a Commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association “highly recommended” Lane, describing her as having “community involvement, demonstrating her commitment to public service.” She has endorsements from Planned Parenthood, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and SEIU Healthcare, among others.
SUPERIOR COURT: RETENTION
In Pennsylvania, all judges, from municipal to Supreme Court, are elected through partisan elections for one 10-year term. After their first 10-year term, citizens vote on whether they should serve another term.
This year, statewide voters can decide to extend the tenures of two incumbent Superior Court judges, Republican Judge Vic Stabile and Democrat Judge Jack Panella. The PA Bar Association has “recommended” both.
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court is the state’s second intermediate appellate court. Tasked with addressing matters concerning state and local governments and regulatory agencies, the court also functions as a trial court for lawsuits involving the Commonwealth. Nine judges serve ten-year terms; the current composition is three Democrats, five Republicans, one vacancy.
Recent noteworthy cases handled by the Commonwealth Court include a ruling declaring Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional and upholding the legality of the state’s ban on Medicaid covering abortion expenses (Allegheny Reproductive Health Center v. Pennsylvania Department of Human Services).
HON. MATT WOLF, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Matt Wolf is currently a supervising judge in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Beforehand, he spent 25 years as a trial lawyer for civil rights cases and was a highly decorated 20-year U.S. Army veteran, earning the Bronze Star.
As supervising judge, Wolf helped implement the eviction diversion program and was honored for his work by the City of Philadelphia. According to a City Council resolution, However, his court has also been responsible for controversial eviction proceedings by private security companies. As a lawyer, Wolf represented many women in pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment cases and fought on behalf of a group recovery home that was being forced out by their town through regulatory action.
The PA Bar Association has “recommended” Wolf, writing “He has been a leader in seeking to clarify, create, and improve rules and processes within the Municipal Court.” His endorsements: the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and Unite Here.
PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
Courts of Common Pleas are trial courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, including child custody, family matters and juvenile justice cases.
Philadelphia voters got to elect 13, instead of the usual 10, because three judges retired at the last minute, and the Philadelphia Democratic Party selected three candidates to fill “magic seats.” Every Democrat who ran for a seat, won one.
HON. KAY YU, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Kay Kyungsun Yu began her career at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and was sworn in to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy in June 2023. In 2008, Mayor Nutter appointed her to the Commission on Human Relations. In 2020, she was voter protection director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the Biden-Harris Coordinated Campaign.
Among Yu’s accolades: the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association and Attorney of the Year from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of PA.
The Bar Association has “highly recommended” Yu. State Senators Nikhil Saval and Vincent Hughes have endorsed her, as have unions such as AFSCME and Unite Here.
JESSICA BROWN, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Jessica Brown has worked as a public defender at the Department of Labor, where she prosecuted companies that mistreated employees or had unsafe working conditions. Her last job was as a union lawyer with Willig, Williams, & Davidson.
The Bar Association “recommended” Brown. Union endorsements include AFSCME District Council 33, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Philadelphia AFL-CIO. The Working Families Party and Philly NOW, two progressive organizations, also endorse Brown.
HON. CHESLEY LIGHTSEY, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Chesley Lightsey is a Temple Law School grad who worked as a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, specializing in prosecuting crimes against women and children. Before becoming a lawyer, she taught in the Mississippi and Memphis public school systems. She was sworn in to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy in June.
HON. JOHN R. PADOVA, JR., DEMOCRAT: WINNER
John R. Padova, Jr. is a sitting judge appointed by Governor Wolf to serve an open seat on the Court of Common Pleas in 2019 and then again in 2022. He is now running for his first full term.
Padova has more than 30 years as a trial lawyer. While on the bench, he has promoted diversionary programs for low-level offenders. Padova said that his judicial philosophy is influenced by his view that “you have to remain impartial and neutral. You have to look at arguments from both sides from an objective point of view.”
Padova was among five “highly recommended” candidates by the Philadelphia Bar Association. Among the organizations and unions who have endorsed him are the building trades, AFL-CIO, the Working Families Party and Liberty City.
HON. NATASHA TAYLOR SMITH, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Natasha Taylor Smith began her career as a public defender after graduating from Temple University Law, then became county solicitor of Montgomery County, defending the Montgomery County Register of Wills and registering the first marriage certificate for a same-sex couple in PA. Most recently, she represented indigent clients in federal court. She was sworn in to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy in June 2023.
In a recent interview, Taylor Smith said that “citizens deserve judges with real-life experience because it is very difficult to empathize with someone if you’ve never had any adversity in your own life.”
Smith was “highly recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association and has the endorsements of the PA Working Families Party, IBEW and Philadelphia AFL-CIO.
HON. SAMANTHA WILLIAMS, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Samantha Williams worked as the Director of Legislation and Policy for the Office of City Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr., where she helped craft Jones’s criminal justice policy, established the legislation for the Citizens Police Oversight Commission and produced a report from the Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform that detailed procedures to reduce the City’s prison population. She was recently selected to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy.
Beforehand, Williams was an Assistant District Attorney.
Williams was “recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association and endorsed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and Black Clergy of Philadelphia.
HON. JAMES EISENHOWER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
James Eisenhower was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Wolf to a four-year term as a judge on the eight-member Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline and served as President Judge until March 2023. He started his career as a White House Fellow with President Bill Clinton on the National Security Council staff. He also was a two-time Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania (2000 and 2004) and served in the administration of former Governor Ed Rendell. Before becoming a judge, Eisenhower worked at Dilworth Paxson.
Eisenhower was “highly recommended” by the Bar Association. He was selected as one of three judges to fill “magic seats.”
No campaign website.
HON. BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Brian McLaughlin was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas by Governor Wolf in July 2022. He is running for his first full 10-year term. He started his career as a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney and has practiced adult and juvenile criminal defense as a partner in a private firm until 2022.
In a recent interview, McLaughlin described himself as “a person with common sense and a compassionate personality.” He sees his job “as a judge is to keep families together. I treat every child who appears in my courtroom as if they were my own.”
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Judge McLaughlin.
No campaign website.
HON. TAMIKA WASHINGTON, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Tamika Washington received an appointment to fill an empty seat on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2022 and is now running to retain that seat. Washington began her career as a Philadelphia Assistant City Solicitor. She ran her private practice for 12 years, volunteering for Philadelphia VIP to help untangle titles to the homes of low-income Philadelphians, and receiving the First Judicial District Pro-Bono Roll of Honor award for her work on behalf of clients who could not afford an attorney.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Washington. The Transportation Workers and the Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 and organizations including Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club and the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance (API-PA) have endorsed her.
DAMARIS GARCIA, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Damaris Garcia has been a civil litigator for more than 20 years. She received her law degree from Duquesne University and currently works as a trial attorney at Haddix & Associates. Garcia is active with the Hispanic Bar Association.
Garcia was “recommended” by the Bar Association and has received the endorsements of AFSMCE DC33 and DC47, among others.
ELVIN PETER ROSS III, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Elvin Peter Ross III is the founding member of the Legis Group LLC. and worked at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in their business and finance practice group. Ross has an undergrad degree from Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, a master’s in education from Drexel, and law degree from Texas Southern. Before becoming a lawyer, he worked at PECO and as a PSD teacher. He is a founding member and former Philadelphia Bar Association’s Advancing Civics Education Committee co-chair.
He was selected as one of three judges to fill “magic seats“ in November. The Philadelphia Bar Association has not rated Ross.
No campaign website.
RAJINDERPAL SANDHER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Rajinderpal Sandher’s Facebook page says he is a lawyer at Sandher & Lehman and graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was selected as one of three judges to fill “magic seats” in November.
The Philadelphia Bar Association rated Sandher “not recommended.”
No campaign website.
CAROLINE TURNER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Caroline Turner moved to the U.S. in 1998, earning a Master’s in bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Temple School of Law. Turner has been a public defender in New Jersey and active in progressive politics, volunteering at CORA’s Housing Eviction Diversion Program. She believes in reforming pretrial detention and probation reform. In a recent interview, Turner said, “Judges can serve as facilitators of healing and can model restorative justice in their dealings with people who come before them.”
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Turner.
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS: RETENTION
All Common Pleas candidates running for retention re-won their seats. (Winners include Ann Marie Coyle, who made news for receiving an virtually unprecedented “not recommended” rating from the Philadelphia Bar Association.)
HON. JACQUELINE ALLEN: WINNER
Judge Jacqueline Allen was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 1994. In 2016, she became the first African American and first woman to serve as Administrative Judge of the Trial Division, making her the top judge of the system’s busiest and most prestigious criminal and civil courtrooms,” according to The Inquirer. Allen served in that role until 2019, when Judge Lisette Shirdan-Harris took over. Prior to her judgeship, she was a law clerk for Hon. Julian King in the Civil Trial Division and a litigator for SEPTA, Conrail and Unisys.
Allen is known for leading the city’s effort to lighten the sentences of more than 300 minors who were serving life in prison, approving the first pay increase in 20 years for public defenders, and, in August, ruling that the Philadelphia school board did not violate any laws by restricting the number of speakers or limiting the time they could speak at board meetings.
Despite having openly considered retiring at year’s end, Allen remains on the ballot.
The Philadelphia Bar Association bestowed their Sandra Day O’Connor award on Allen in 2018 and “recommended” her for retention.
HON. GIOVANNI CAMPBELL: WINNER
Judge Giovanni Campbell has served on the Court of Common Pleas since 2014. Born in Panama, raised from age 12 in New York, Campbell came to Philly through Temple Law. He now serves on the Criminal Trial Division – Major Trials, ruling on serious, non-homicide felony cases from Northwest Philadelphia.
Prior to his judgeship, Campbell was a solo practitioner. He’s said he purposely located his office in underserved communities, and litigated criminal defense at the state and federal levels. In a 2011 questionnaire for The Inquirer, he cited extensive pro bono legal and educational work, including for Temple’s Legal Education and Participation Project, the PA Bar Association’s Pro Bono Project, Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP) and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. He is a practicing Quaker who recently sentenced Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick Heron to 15 to 40 years for abusing and assaulting dozens of women and girls.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Campbell for retention.
HON. ANN MARIE COYLE: WINNER
Judge Ann Marie Coyle, first elected to the Court of Common Pleas in November 2013, is running for another 10-year term. Prior to her judgeship, Coyle spent 16 years as an Assistant District Attorney, including as Assistant Chief of the Major Trials Unit.
Controversial decisions have marked the judge’s time on the bench. Coyle refused to release inmates from jail at the height of the Covid pandemic and imposed the harshest sentences for individuals who violate probation. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board recently suggested voters reject her retention vote.
The Philadelphia Bar Association issued its first “not recommended” rating for retention in six years for Judge Coyle.
HON. RAMY I. DJERASSI: WINNER
Judge Ramy I. Djerassi was elected in 2003 and reelected in 2013. He has presided over Family Court (2003-2006), Criminal Court (2006-2013), Civil Court (2013-2015) and Commerce Court (2015-present). Prior to his judgeship, Djerssi spent 21 years as an attorney in private practice and served as an assistant DA.
He considers himself a criminal justice reformer and helped found the Philadelphia Network of Care for Prisoner Reentry) and The Accountability Project, to assist recently incarcerated people with life, including addiction treatment, on the outside. In July 2023, The Inquirer outed Djerassi as one of 28 Common Pleas judges who are also landlords — and said the city had long pursued his rental property company for unpaid real estate taxes, gas bills, trash violations and other L&I citations. (He owns and rents close to 40 units in five buildings.)
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Djerassi for retention.
HON. JOSEPH L. FERNANDES: WINNER
Judge Joseph L. Fernandes has served on the Court of Common Pleas since 2014. He currently presides over Philadelphia Family Court. In the past, he has reversed rulings of his colleague Judge Lyris Younge, who was subsequently suspended and removed from Family Court for unethical and unconstitutional conduct.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Fernandes for retention.
HON. HOLLY FORD: WINNER
HON. TIMIKA LANE: WINNER
Judge Timika Lane was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2013 and is currently running for both retention and for a new role on Superior Court. Should she not win election to the higher judicial body, she’ll likely return to Common Pleas. (See above for a fuller description of her background and expertise.)
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Lane for retention.
HON. JOSEPH SCOTT O’KEEFE: WINNER
Judge J. Scott O’Keefe was appointed to a “magic seat” on the Court of Common Pleas in 2013 and assumed the role in 2014. According to his campaign website, he’s a former police officer who spent 33 years as trial attorney.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” O’Keefe for retention.
HON. PAULA PATRICK: WINNER
Judge Paula Patrick was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2003, where she primarily handles business-related cases. One such case — ordering the removal of the plywood box from the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza — made waves not just for the decision alone. It also resulted in The Daily Beast referring to her as “QAnon-linked.” She responded by suing the media outlet in federal court, and losing. and a lawsuit Patrick brought in federal court.
Prior to serving on the bench, she was in private practice.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Patrick for retention.
HON. SIERRA THOMAS STREET: WINNER
Judge Sierra Thomas Street was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2013. She took office in 2014, serving in the Major Trial Program in the Criminal Division, and, more recently, in the Civil Division, presiding over bench and jury felony trials of people charged of attempted murder, rape, robbery and family violence.
She is the ex-wife of state Sen. Sharif Street. In 2021, she ran and lost a race for Commonwealth Court. Prior to her judgeship, she was in private practice.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Thomas Street for retention.
HON. NINA WRIGHT PADILLA: WINNER
Judge Nina Wright Padilla has been a member of the Court of Common Pleas since 2004. In 2021, she became the first Black supervising judge of the Commerce Court, presiding over business disputes: actions relating to trade secrets, non-compete agreements, purchases or sales of businesses and class actions. Her previous court assignments included the Motions and Statutory Appeals Program of the Civil Trial Division, the Criminal Trial Division, and the Domestic Relations Branch of Family Court.
That same year, Wright Padilla was elected chair of the 12-member Judicial Conduct Board of PA.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Wright Padilla for retention.
PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT
The Municipal Court is the lowest level of the judicial system, where most individuals first encounter the court system. This court handles eviction proceedings, small claims, and debts up to $12,000.
COLLEEN MCINTYRE OSBORNE, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Colleen McIntyre Osborne attended Drexel University Law School and has more than a decade of experience as a Philadelphia and Montgomery County prosecutor. She has served as a JAG lawyer in the U.S Army Reserve. After leaving the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, she worked for the School District of Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” McIntyre Osborne. The Democratic Party, IBEW 98 and National Organization For Women have endorsed her.
BARBARA THOMSON, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Barbara Thomson began her career at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, specializing in criminal justice reform. She has worked for New York City Transit and said she has dedicated her career to helping reform the criminal justice system.
She was “recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association and endorsed by the Democratic Party and several open wards.
PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT: RETENTION
All Municipal Court candidates running for retention kept their seats.
HON. MARISSA BRUMBACH: WINNER
Judge Marissa Brumbach assumed office in 2018 and is running for retention. Before becoming a judge, she spent 20 years in private practice and clerked for Judge.Amanda Cooperman. In 2022, an ethics board found that Brumbach had tried to rule on traffic citations early because she was leaving for Florida.
HON. WILLIAM A. MEEHAN JR. (not pictured): WINNER
Judge William A. Meehan, Jr. has served on the court by election since 1994. His Municipal Court purview has included Drug Treatment Court and Driving Under the Influence Court. He currently chairs, co-chairs and is a member of several committees pertaining to judicial rules and procedures. Prior to the bench, he was in private practice, served as an assistant DA in Delaware County, and as deputy DA for the Commonwealth.
Last year, Meehan dismissed charges against two PPD officers (and brothers) accused of falsely accusing, chasing and beating a man with Asberger’s syndrome. Meehan had previously dismissed charges against SWAT officer Richard P. Nicoletti, who pepper sprayed protesters on the Vine Street Expressway in 2020, and two officers separately accused of tampering with evidence.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Meehan for retention.
HON. BRADLEY MOSS: WINNER
Judge Bradley Moss first joined the Municipal Court in 2004. He spent 13 years as Supervising Judge for the court’s Civil Division, where the bulk of his cases involved landlord-tenant disputes. According to WHYY, Moss has sided with plaintiffs (landlords) in 78 percent of cases.
Moss co-chairs the court’s Judicial Conference and Education Committee and is a member of the Minor Court Rules Committee. Prior to his judgeship, Moss was the partner of two law Philadelphia firms.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Moss for retention.
HON. DAVID C. SHUTER: WINNER
Judge David C. Shuter, first elected to the bench in 2005, is running for retention. Controversy around his reelection stems from his marriage to Marisa Shuter, an attorney whom the Municipal Court appointed to act as the city’s Landlord Tenant Officer, a lucrative and controversial role that employs armed deputies to collect tenant rents and related fees for landlords and officiating over evictions. Meanwhile, Judge Shuter has continued to preside over eviction cases. When he rules in favor of landlords, his wife stands to benefit financially.
HON. KAREN SIMMONS: WINNER
Judge Karen Simmons joined Municipal Court in 2006. In 2018, while running to lead the court as president judge, she received a racist letter that set off a discussion about a culture of inequity and racism in the courts. In 2020, Simmons received the Louis H. Pollak Award for public service from the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia.
Last year, she dismissed third-degree murder charges for the alleged drunk driver who struck and killed two state troopers and a pedestrian on I-95. Prior to her judgeship, Simmons was an assistant public defender and assistant city solicitor focusing on labor and employment. She was also chief legal counsel for the PPD.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Simmons for retention.
HON. MARVIN L. WILLIAMS: WINNER
Judge Marvin L. Williams has served on the Municipal Court since 2018. According to a questionnaire Williams completed for The Inquirer, in addition to his law background, he is a PA-licensed CPA and forensic accountant, former Philadelphia Deputy Sheriff Officer and Air Force veteran.
In 2016, Williams presided over bail for Rysheed Jordan, a basketball phenom who went to prison after pleading guilty for wounding someone during a botched robbery.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Williams for retention.
HON. MATT WOLF: WINNER, although must cede seat in because he also won the vacant seat on Commonwealth Court
Judge Matt Wolf assumed his place on the Municipal Court in 2018, where he is currently the Supervising Civil Judge, presiding over civil and criminal cases, including a preponderance of landlord-tenant disputes.
Wolf is running for both retention and for a new role on the statewide Commonwealth Court. Should he not win election to the higher judicial body, he will likely return to Municipal Court. (See above for a fuller description of Wolf’s background and expertise.)
The Philadelphia Bar Association has “recommended” Wolf for retention.
Julie Platt in partnership with Better Civics contributed the information on judicial candidates.
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