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Penn College Republicans endorsed David Oh (left) for Philadelphia mayor, and Penn Young Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Helen Gym (right).

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Ahead of the Philadelphia mayoral primary election in May, student political groups are divided on how and whether they will be making a formal endorsement.

While Penn College Republicans will be endorsing David Oh and Penn Young Democratic Socialists of America will be endorsing 1993 College graduate and former city councilmember Helen Gym, Penn Democrats is abstaining from endorsing a single candidate in the mayoral race.

Penn Dems Communications Director and College sophomore Nicole Giegerich told The Daily Pennsylvanian that since the club typically does not make a formal endorsement in primary elections. The decision to not endorse in the mayoral race simply “follows our precedent.”

“Obviously there are a lot of Democratic candidates in the Philly mayoral race and Dems is a large group representing a variety of people,” Giegerich said. “We think it would be hard to come to a consensus that reflects the views of the majority of the organization.”

Giegerich added that Penn Dems has hosted and built “good relationships” with several of the mayoral candidates and making an endorsement could “burn bridges.”

Penn Dems have hosted events with Gym, Jeff Brown, and Rebecca Rhynhart, among other candidates this semester.

When Penn Dems does make an endorsement, Giegerich said the process starts when a member brings up the idea of an endorsement at a deputy board meeting, which is followed by discussions among the executive board and an ultimate vote. The vote to endorse needs two-thirds of the entire body to be approved, Giegerich added.

While an endorsement will not be made ahead of the mayoral primary, Giegerich said that the club will publish a voter guide to provide an overview of each candidate, their policies, and how they differ from each other in addition to providing instructions to the Penn community on how to vote by mail and use absentee ballots.

Penn YDSA board member and College junior Taja Mazaj, who is also a DP staffer, said that when the club makes an endorsement, it wants to build a connection with a candidate and invite them to speak on campus. 

“We love having them at our meetings. We’ll try to invite them to our GBM and get them to speak about their platform," Mazaj said. "We just try to build a relationship with them and then decide if we want to endorse them."

To discern a candidate that aligns with Penn YDSA beliefs, Mazaj said that she looks for individuals that tailor their platform toward working-class Philadelphians, with support for investments in education, health care, and anti-carceral policies. Candidates with significant corporate and Democratic Party backing are “definitely a turn-off,” Mazaj added.

For the crowded Democratic mayoral primary, Penn YDSA will endorse Gym. The endorsement follows Gym’s speech at a rally in support of resident advisors and graduate assistants’ efforts to unionize. Penn YDSA has expressed support for the unionization efforts.

“Gym is not running just to run. She’s actually willing to [support] our concerns and have a sense of solidarity with issues that are affecting Philadelphians,” Mazaj said in support of her club’s endorsement decision.

College Republicans Political Director and College first-year Peter Kapp told the DP that the organization will be endorsing David Oh, the only Republican candidate.

When choosing whether to endorse a candidate, Kapp said that the club looks into the individual’s beliefs and the press they received from both conservative and liberal-leaning media.

“We as a club do have varied beliefs but there are some things that we will universally agree on, and if these Republican candidates don’t meet our criteria — which is a relatively broad spectrum of conservative values — we’re not going to endorse them,” Kapp said.

With the most recent mayoral election ending with a four-to-one Democrat-to-Republican vote ratio, Kapp acknowledged that College Republicans’ endorsement of Oh “doesn’t really matter.”