An Organized Challenge in District 8

Seth Anderson-Oberman’s labor and union skills seek to spark needed change in Germantown & beyond. 

To unseat incumbent Cindy Bass in the Eighth Councilmanic District, it will take a lot of drive and effort. To date, no challenger has come close to defeating her in the Democratic primary.

That may change this time around, for the Germantown native who has thrown his hat in the ring has extensive experience as a union organizer. And as befits a union organizer, Seth Anderson-Oberman launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Eighth District seat with a rousing rally at the Project Learn School in Mt. Airy on Feb. 11.

A series of speakers and performers — 10 in all, most of them union members who have been active in organizing themselves — testified to Anderson-Oberman’s knowledge, humility, talent and concern for the welfare of all before an overflow crowd at the school.

A Germantown native, Anderson-Oberman was exposed to the benefits of unions early on, when his stepfather stood with fellow District 1199C members at Giuffre Medical Center to win a contract that gave them living wages. Since then, he has devoted his career to organizing on behalf of UNITE HERE, the American Federation of Teachers and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, part of the Service Employees International Union.

The one elected official at the rally, State Rep. Chris Rabb, defined the difference between Anderson-Oberman and the incumbent Council member thusly:

“There’s two kinds of elected officials. There’s politicians, and there’s public servants. …Politicians serve themselves. That’s what politicians do best. But if you’re an elected official who is a public servant, you serve the greater good. You serve the people.

Chris Rabb at Seth’s launch party (photo by Ann Marie Doley)

“You can be an amazing orator. You can have many degrees. But it’s your values and how you walk the talk. And I know that Seth walks the talk because he’s been there when I’ve been at my lowest as a candidate.”

Rabb went on to explain that when his opponents were engaging in mudslinging and dirty tricks, Anderson-Oberman was there to support and defend him. “And he didn’t ask for anything. He was there because he cares.”

Rabb also told the crowd that the numbers who came to the launch also bode well for the campaign. “This is a lot of people coming out three months before Election Day,” he said. “That speaks volumes. We can do this.”

And he offered words of encouragement for the candidate: “There will be naysayers who say you can’t do this, you’re running against a three-term incumbent, the establishment is behind her, yadda yadda yadda, it’s your first time, you’re idealistic, all this stuff. They may even call you crazy, among other things, But you know what? You keep doing what you do with the team that supports you, and you run with integrity, they’ll be calling you Council member.”

Anderson-Oberman pledged at the rally to continue to stand up for unions in the city. He told the crowd about his own father’s experience as a member of District 1199C, the union of hospital and healthcare workers that got him better wages and gave him funds to pursue a college degree.

“Unions are the most effective anti-poverty program we have,” he said. “And we must fight with everything we have to protect and expand workers’ rights to organize.”

The Eighth District extends from Nicetown in the southeast to Chestnut Hill in the northwest and includes parts of Logan and Ogontz and all of Germantown and Mt. Airy. But in his speech to the crowd, Anderson-Oberman made it clear that his greatest concern was for the working people who inhabit Germantown, Nicetown and Mt. Airy.

He criticized Bass for not only showing indifference to the fate of neighborhood institutions — “We watched as our high school [Germantown High School] was closed down, one year shy of its 100th anniversary, with nary a peep from Cindy Bass” — but her frustrating record of inaction, that’s resulted in real harm to her district, such as the gas-fired heat and power plant SEPTA built in Nicetown despite strong opposition from neighbors.

He also sounded the alarm over development pressures that were forcing lower-income Germantowners out of the neighborhood.

“Right now, within a three-block radius of our house, four big, ugly apartment buildings are going up with no affordable units,” he said. “No on-site parking. Two-bedroom units are renting for $2,500 in a neighborhood where the median family income is $36,000 a year for a family of four. So we know that if we don’t act now, our children won’t be able to afford to live in the neighborhood where they grew up.”

He summed up his Council campaign as a fight against “some incredibly powerful and wealthy interests who have a real stake in the kinds of development that threaten the future of our communities.” His proposed alternatives to the status quo included “good jobs with living wages, deeply affordable housing as a human right, a public-health approach to community safety that targets poverty reduction, fully funded and safe schools, and equitable community-led development with a public bank that frees our city from the vise grip of Wall Street lenders.”

Longtime Germantown resident Yvonne Haskins then charged the audience to spread the word about Anderson-Oberman. She recalled the time about 12 years ago when some 3,000 Germantown residents turned out to protest a proposal to replace a local supermarket with a strip mall anchored by a dollar store and noted that “we won that battle but lost the war” when Bass exercised councilmanic prerogative to endorse the project.

“I learned that day and I’ve learned in earlier times: People come out of the woodwork when they’re mad,” she said. “Are you mad?”

The crowd roared its approval.

The Democratic primary election takes place May 16th.

LEARN MORE about Seth Anderson-Oberman at and @seth4thepeople

May 1 — deadline to register to as a voter in Pennsylvania
May 9 — last day to apply for mail-in ballot
May 16 — ELECTION DAY! (last day to mail your ballot, too)

For more information about voting in May’s primary election (or voting in general), go to
Get a rundown of candidates’ views, endorsements and other info at and

Images in this post courtesy of Ann Marie Doley

About Sandy Smith 16 Articles
Sandy’s interest in journalism stretches all the way back to high school, and he’s been scribbling away ever since then, either in the field or in its hired-gun cousin, media relations. He currently runs the Real Estate & Home channel at Philadelphia magazine's website, You'll find his column on trends in real estate and design in the print edition. Cities and the built environment float his boat, as does rail transportation, and he’s written about all of the above for Philadelphia-area media and beyond. His work has also appeared in Next City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Hidden City Daily and several other regional publications. Sandy is a Kansas City native who currently lives in West Germantown. Follow Sandy on and social media -- Twitter: @MarketStEl Facebook: WriterSandySmith

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