Nov 9, 2023 - Politics

Working Families Party gains ground on Philadelphia City Council

Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O'Rourke

Working Families Party members Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O'Rourke. Photos: Courtesy of the campaigns

Philadelphia's progressive movement made unprecedented inroads in City Council in Tuesday's election.

Why it matters: Republicans were shut out from at-large City Council seats for the first time in more than half a century, further diminishing their influence in Philly politics.

State of play: The progressive Working Families Party candidates Kendra Brooks (incumbent) and Nicolas O'Rourke won races for the council's two at-large seats, per unofficial election results.

  • The third-party candidates beat out Republicans Jim Hasher and Drew Murray for seats set aside for minority parties.

Of note: Democrats easily won the five other at-large seats.

The result: The new 17-member City Council, which takes over in January, will have a single Republican β€” Councilmember Brian O'Neill, who handily won re-election for his 10th District seat in the Northeast.

Yes, but: It's unclear whether Brooks and O'Rourke will be able to push city policies to the left because they're going to running up against an incoming City Council mostly made up of establishment and moderate Democrats.

Flashback: Republicans have held at least one of those two at-large City Council seats since the early 1950s.

  • Brooks was the first third-party candidate to win a City Council seat in the modern era.

How they did it: Brooks and O'Rourke far outraised their Republican opponents, fueling a slew of campaign ads from the Working Families Party slate leading up to the election.

  • The third-party candidates also benefited from endorsements from city and state officials, along with strong union support.
  • Plus: They attempted to link their Republican opponents to the national GOP policies, like abortion bans.

What they're saying: Republicans will likely have difficulty gaining a foothold in city politics outside of the Northeast going forward, limiting Philly's two-party system of governance, Mustafa Rashed, the president and CEO of Bellevue Strategies, tells Axios.

  • "A two-party system is good government β€”Β it's good for discussion, it's good politics β€” and getting away from that can be concerning," he says.

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