Cherelle Parker wins election, the Local was there to see her-story being made that night.
Cherelle Parker will be Philadelphia’s 100th mayor and the first African-American woman to hold the mayor’s office in Philadelphia’s history. The long-time Democratic politician beat a crowded primary field and was heavily favored to beat the Republican candidate David Oh. Either candidate would have been a historic win for Philadelphia and someone to be proud of, but at the end of the day, Philadelphians wanted “a safer, cleaner, greener Philadelphia.”
The energy in the ballroom at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 union hall was palpable from the moment the first guest walked in the room at 8 p.m. by 8:25, it was already clear Parker was going to beat David Oh and by a considerable margin.
Parker quietly arrived at the Union Hall around 8:45, going up to the second floor until she was scheduled to give her speech around 10 p.m.
While we waited, a cacophony of religious, political, and labor leaders spoke glowingly about Parker, laying out why they supported her and what they hoped would happen under a Parker administration. Most of the time they were talking, it was over the excited conversations of the crowd, who largely could have cared less about the opening acts and were impatiently waiting for the star of the night to come out and tell “her-story” — a tale of “Yes she can” and “Yes she did.” ✊
Finally, she took the crowded stage filled with family, friends, and supporters, including House Speaker Joanna McClinton, House Majority Appropriations Chair Jordan Harris, Senate Minority Appropriations Chair Vince Hughes, and Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Sharif Street, who were all present on stage during her victory speech. Earlier in the day, she was joined by Gov. Josh Shapiro, President Joe Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris called Parker to congratulate her.
Parker was also joined on stage by her ex-husband, Ben Mullins, and her 11-year-old son, who they co-parent.
In an emotional half-hour, tear-filled speech, she told the story of her rise from humble beginnings to become Philadelphia’s 100th mayor and what Philadelphians can expect from her in her first term.
“I started off on this campaign trail, and I tried to follow the script,” said Parker. “A lot of campaign experts thought that they would tell us the best way that we should walk, talk, and act to win an election and get votes. For those of you who know me, it just didn’t feel right.”
She talked about being raised by her grandparents, being born to a single teenage mother who passed away when she was just 11 years old, being on welfare, and what that meant to her. She noted that she didn’t pull herself up by her bootstraps; she needed a village to make her into the person she would become. She said her experience was closest to the people feeling the most pain right now in the city.
“So I got on the trail and began to talk about it out loud,” said Parker, choking up with emotion. “I didn’t hide from it because I wouldn’t allow anybody else to attempt to weaponize my humble beginnings against me.”
She finished her victory speech with a promise to Philadelphians everywhere and every strata of society and a call for support from the federal government to help her get the job done for Philadelphians.
“My message to Philadelphians from all walks of life was that if they just give me the opportunity, that I would put to great use everything inside of me … I would put all of it to great use to work with you all to make Philadelphia the safest, cleanest, greenest big city in the nation with economic opportunity for all,” said Parker.
“Philadelphia can not be successful without an immense amount of support from the White House and our Congress,” said Parker, referencing her call with the President and Vice President. “We need the support. Both of them said that they are prepared and they are ready.”
David Oh conceded around 11 p.m. from the Emporer Restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia.
“I have served for 11 years in city council, and in that time, I have spent a lot of time really kind of challenging our government itself to do what it should do to provide the services it should provide, and there was not really a reason for me to stay on city council I didn’t feel that I was being effective after 11 years,” said Oh as he spoke the small group of supporters gathered to wait out the results of the election.
“I was starting to recycle bills, and so I thought the best thing I could do is to offer the voters a choice, you know, we are we have come to the end of this journey the voters have spoken, and Charelle Parker is the 100th mayor of Philadelphia, so I congratulate her I wish her well. It is her responsibility now, and we will all support her to make her the most successful mayor this city has seen because that’s what’s in the public interest.”
He ended his speech with a message of hope, courage, and faith in American democracy and the people of Philadelphia that left people longing for the Republican party of old.
“It was important for me on a personal level to testify in Word and deed about my faith in God and my faith that we can do things to improve this city, but not if we’re afraid and not if we’re afraid to lose. Don’t be afraid to lose; be afraid not to try.”
Mayor Kenny and Governor Josh Shapiro congratulated Mayor-elect Parker and offered encouragement and cooperation.
“She and I’ve worked together for the last two decades,” said Shapiro of Parker, referring to their time in the state House together. “I’ve got high hopes for her. She’ll be a great executive, and I’m excited to work with her.”
Shapiro said he’s already begun some informal conversations with Parker about how they can collaborate. He said they’ll have more formal conversations about things she wants to accomplish during her transition.
“In general, she ran a campaign on similar platforms to me, how we educate our children, to bring safety to our communities, and grow our economy,” said Shapiro. “And those are issues that I think we’re going to find a lot of common ground on.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who was on stage during Parker’s victory speech, didn’t deliver remarks on Tuesday evening but issued a statement congratulating mayor-elect Parker.
“Congratulations to mayor-elect Cherelle Parker on this historic milestone in her extraordinary public service career,” Kenney said in a press release. “I am proud to call Cherelle a friend and a colleague, and I look forward to working with her to ensure a smooth and successful transition that keeps our city’s progress on track.”
“Elections are profound and powerful, and running them is a monumental responsibility and undertaking,” continued Kenney. “I am thankful to the City Commissioners, our public safety partners, and all the workers and volunteers across the city who helped to ensure another safe, free, and fair election in our city.”
Parker closed her address with a call for unity.
“We need everyone to bring it together,” Parker said. “I love you, Philly; we’re going to do this together.”
Photos in this post by Cory Clark