Jan 5, 2022 - Politics

What to watch in Philly politics in 2022

Illustration of a podium at the end of a long red carpet
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Another pandemic year is in store for Philadelphia politics in 2022.

State of play: COVID-19 is expected to prevail as the dominant issue confronting political leaders over the next 12 months and affect how they respond to public safety — one of Philadelphia's top challenges entering the new year.

  • Behind-the-scenes campaigning also will kick into high gear for the 2023 mayoral race, which is drawing interest from several city legislators.

Between the lines: Those eyeing a run for mayor include Councilmembers Cherelle Parker, Cindy Bass, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Allan Domb.

  • Other potential mayoral candidates include City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart and ShopRite supermarket owner Jeff Brown.
  • Of note: City legislators must resign their seats to run for another office.
  • Meanwhile, all 17 seats on City Council are up for election in 2023.

Axios asked local political insiders what they're watching in 2022. Here's what they had to say:

Pandemic

Mustafa Rashed, the president and CEO of lobbying and communications firm Bellevue Strategies, said he's keeping an eye on how officials will grapple with the pandemic's impact on city revenues, budgets, services, planning and more.

  • "Trying to figure out what happens next is going to be really critical," said Rashed. "[The pandemic] just impacts so many different things. There are so many things we don't know."
  • Rashed said it'll also play a part in the mayoral race. He predicts that voters may gravitate to the candidate with the best vision for how to grow the city out of the pandemic.
Public Safety

Jay McCalla, a former city deputy managing director, cited public safety as a key issue in the mayoral election, as homicides reached an all-time high in 2021.

  • Voters are expected to demand a robust plan from any mayoral candidate about reducing homicides and addressing gun violence, McCalla said.
Kenney's legacy

Mayor Jim Kenney enters his final two years in office but questions remain about his political influence and whether he'll roll out big-ticket policies.

  • "He's got very little clout with the public of Philadelphia, very little clout with the corporate community, no clout with the corporate community. He's through," McCalla said.
  • Yes, but: "It's not over," Rashed said. "He's got two full years!"

Flashback: Kenney notched his top policy accomplishments during his first term: The soda tax and the city’s pre-kindergarten program.

Corruption cases

Disgraced City Councilmember Bobby Henon will be sentenced in February following his conviction on federal corruption charges last year.

  • The Democrat, who represents District 6, is not required to resign from his seat until his sentencing. An election for Henon's seat will be scheduled after he steps down.
  • Councilman Kenyatta Johnson's trial on federal corruption charges is scheduled to begin Feb. 1. He has pleaded not guilty.
Redistricting

New political maps are coming.

  • The Philadelphia City Council has until Feb. 12 to approve new boundaries for the city's 10 districts.
  • State leaders have approved preliminary maps for state House and Senate legislative maps.
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