Thoughts on the 2021 Philadelphia Primary

Well, it’s primary season again here in Philadelphia. Now, you may be thinking, didn’t we just do this? Yes, we did. But there’s a whole new slate of positions and things to vote on:

  • State and Local Judges
  • District Attorney
  • City Controller
  • Ballot Questions

Voter Eligibility and Registration

If you’re eligible to vote in Pennsylvania, but haven’t already registered, you have until May 5th to register to vote in the primary. You have to register by May 5th to vote in the primary, which is on May 18th. You can also sign up to vote by mail, but you must do so by May 11th. Finally, for the primary, Philadelphia has 14 drop box locations, in case you’re worried the mail won’t deliver your ballot in time.

In Pennsylvania, you have to be registered with a party to vote for judges, district attorney, and city controller. However, anyone in Pennsylvania can vote on the ballot questions. So, if you’re registered to vote, but not with a particular party, feel free to jump down to the ballot questions. If you’re registered as a Democrat, read on. If you’re registered as a Republican… I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing here, but welcome! I’ll only be talking about the Democratic Candidates though. 

Leo is here to provide emotional support.

Democratic Judicial and Local Candidates

The following positions are presented in the order they’ll most likely appear on the ballots. I based my decisions mainly on the endorsements of the PA Working Families Party and Reclaim Philadelphia and the Judge Accountability Table. 

The following indicate which of the organizations endorsed them. 
* = PA Working Families Party
= Reclaim Philadelphia/Judge Accountability Table

PA Supreme Court (Only one Democrat candidate)
Maria McLaughlin*

Superior Court (Allowed to vote for 1)
Timika Lane*

Commonwealth Court (Allowed to vote for up to 2)
Lori Dumas*

Court of Common Pleas (Allowed to vote for up to 8)
Caroline Turner*
Wendi Barish*
Cateria McCabe*
Nick Kamau
Dan Sulman
Betsy Wahl*
Michele Hangley*
Chris Hall*

Municipal Court (Allowed to vote for up to 3)
Michael Lambert*
Greg Yorgey-Girdy*

District Attorney (Allowed to vote for 1)
Larry Krasner
(I’m not thrilled with Krasner, but his opponent, Vega, is running as a “law and order” candidate who wants more to bring more drug-related cases to trial. I suspect Vega’s policies will end up being disproportionately burdensome on Black and brown communities.)

City Controller (Only one candidate)
Rebecca Rhynhart

Ballot questions

There are five ballot questions, accompanied by my thoughts on them. The Philadelphia Citizen Guide has much more information about each of the ballot questions. https://thephiladelphiacitizen.org/voter-guide-pa-primary-2021/#ballot-measures

Disclaimer: I had a lot more time to think about the first 3 questions than the last two. 

Q1 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?

My thoughts: No – This seems like a Republican reaction to state mask mandates and COVID emergency declarations.

Q2 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?

My thoughts: No – This seems like a Republican reaction to state mask mandates and COVID emergency declarations.

Q3 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

My thoughts: Yes – Having equal rights matters.

Q4 – Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. §7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?

My thoughts: Yes – This expands which fire companies and ambulance services to apply for loans from the state in order to upgrade equipment, which seems important.

Q5 – Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?

My thoughts: Yes – This seems like it would speed up these reviews.

Policing in Philly

A marshy area at Heinz Nature Preserve.
A marshy area at Heinz Nature Preserve: something soothing before we get to the serious stuff.

Before I get into the local policing information, I wanted to say that I’m really pleased that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election. I also hope that we repudiate and address systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, graft, and cruelty of all kinds—and that demands justice from those who have put their own well-being ahead of the lives and welfare of those who live here.

Ballot Questions on Policing

In addition to the national and state level candidates on Philly’s ballots, there were 2 ballot questions on policing in Philadelphia. One was to “constitutionally ban stop and frisk” and the other was to create a police oversight panel. Both passed. (Yay, Philly!) WHYY has some additional details on these ballot questions.

Additional Measures and Next Steps

Prior to the election, the City Council passed a ban on tear gas and rubber bullets. However, this still needs to be signed into law by Mayor Kenney. I’ve included an email I wrote to Mayor Kenney below, if you’d like something to work from.

james.kenney@phila.gov
(215) 686-2181
Twitter @PhillyMayor

Ban police use of “less than lethal” force

Dear Mayor Kenney,

I am writing to ask you to sign into law the ban on police use of “less than lethal” force that was passed by the Philadelphia City Council on October 29th. The citizens of Philadelphia should not be treated as the enemy when they are exercising their rights.

Thank you.

Of note: 3 Councilmembers (David Oh (R, at large), Brian J. O’Neill (R, 10th district), and Bobby Henon (D, 6th district)) voted against the bill.

Another Police Shooting

About two weeks ago, a mentally-ill Black man named Walter Wallace was shot 14 times. According to WHYY, body camera footage shows Wallace was not rushing officers and didn’t have a knife raised at the time they opened fire. There’s a petition calling on the city to to fire the officers who shot Wallace, to ban police from answering mental health calls, and to not provide additional funding to the police (for acquiring tasers).

Finally, here’s a list of resources that are alternatives to calling the police in Philadelphia.