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On May 20, Philadelphia voters will head to the polls to select their nominees for Mayor and City Council. Considering that Democrats comprise 78 percent of Philadelphia’s party-affiliated electorate, the May primary essentially determines the winners in November. Among the slew of candidates for elected office are a group of Penn graduates and affiliates. The Daily Pennsylvanian takes a look at who bleeds red and blue in this May’s primary.


Jim Kenney: Though he attended La Salle University as an undergraduate, Kenney served as an adjunct professor at Penn for the last thirteen years. He taught courses in the Fels Institute of Government on governmental administration.

Lynne Abraham: When visiting Penn in February, the former district attorney described her geographical roots to the University, having grown up on 41st Street, just northwest of the Woodlands Cemetery. As an undergraduate at Temple University, Abraham studied at Penn’s library because “you didn’t need an ID to get in.” She joked, “I couldn’t have graduated from Temple if it weren’t for the University of Pennsylvania.”


While all sixteen City Council seats are up for reelection this year, only one seat — which belonged to former Councilman and now mayoral candidate Jim Kenney — is currently vacant. Additionally, two at-large seats are always reserved for candidates from the minority party, which is traditionally the Republican Party in Philadelphia.

The Democrats:

W. Wilson Goode: The son of Philadelphia’s first African-American mayor, Goode has served on the City Council for 15 years. He graduated from Penn in 1986 with a degree in political science. Last month, Goode introduced a resolution in City Council calling for “mega-nonprofits” in the city to pay Payments in Lieu of Taxes. He worked with the Student Labor Action Project on forming this resolution. Goode is running for re-election this year.

Kenyatta Johnson: Johnson is running for re-election as the Councilman representing Philadelphia’s Second District. He graduated with a master’s degree in government administration from Fels in 2000. He is also the youngest member on the City Council.

Curtis Jones, Jr.: Jones represents Philadelphia’s 4th District in the City Council. He claims to have attended the Fels Institute of Government on his webpage, but there is no account of him in Penn’s alumni directory. He is running for reelection as well this year.

Sherrie Cohen: Cohen graduated from the College of Women — the all-female division of the School of Arts and Sciences before it was integrated — in 1975 with an individualized major. Cohen likes to say that her major ended up being women’s studies because of the amount of courses she took relating to women’s issues. Cohen, who narrowly lost a bid to City Council in 2011, is running for an at-large seat. If she wins, she will be the first openly gay City Councilperson in Philadelphia’s history.

Helen Gym: Gym is a former Daily Pennsylvanian staffer who graduated from Penn in 1993 with a history degree. She also earned a master’s degree in education at the University in 1996. Running on a prominently education-based platform, Gym also looks to earn an at-large seat to the City Council.

The Republicans:

David Oh: Oh is one of the at-large Councilmen from the Republican Party, having been elected to the post in 2011. He did not graduate from Penn, but his cousin, Ho Oh, was tragically murdered while attending graduate school at the University.

Terry Tracy: Tracy is a candidate for one of the Republican at-large seats this year. He graduated from Temple and then earned a master’s degree in government administration from the Fels Institute of Government.

Matt Wolfe: Wolfe is another candidate for a Republican at-large seat. He graduated from Penn in 1978 with a political science degree. He is currently the Republican Ward Leader of Philadelphia’s 27th Ward, which encompasses Penn’s campus and the surrounding area.

Other Parties:

Kristin Combs: Combs is a public school teacher who earned a master’s degree in education from Penn in 2010. She is a candidate for the Green Party who is also running for an at-large seat. Because the Green Party is a minority party, Combs will be competing for the seats normally taken by two Republicans. Her name will appear on the ballot in November and not in the May primary. 

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