VICTORY: Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke Elected to City Council
On Tuesday, November 7th Philadelphia showed up at the polls and voted to put two bold Black leftist leaders in power, kicking Republicans off of City Council-At-Large.
Four years ago, the Democratic establishment fought against our progressive movement. The press routinely called Kendra Brooks' campaign for City Council a "long shot" and often questioned her viability. However, Kendra wasn’t running alone. A savvy community organizer who successfully fought to stop the closure of her children’s neighborhood school, Kendra had a movement behind her. She was an established leader and coalition builder with credibility in communities across our beautiful city of Philadelphia. We, as everyday people and as organizers, knew it could be done, and so we did it.
In 2019, people in our anti-mass incarceration movement family—especially in Free The Ballot, the only organization in our movement sector set up to participate in elections at the time—organized among the family members of incarcerated people in PA prisons. They sent mailings inside so currently incarcerated people could call their family members and help get them out to vote. As part of a broader coalition of movement groups, we made history and elected Kendra Brooks as the first Working Families Party member of Philadelphia City Council.
Fast forward to 2023 and we weren’t going to leave anything on the table. While right-wing billionaires and leadership in the Democratic City Committee—who oddly seem to prefer Republicans to progressives—worked to stop Kendra and Nic, we organized our communities and built the momentum to win. We let people across Philly know that in addition to re-electing Kendra, we needed to ensure that Nicolas O’Rourke, a principled and compassionate faith leader and social justice organizer was elected alongside her. We need to grow the power of our communities inside and outside the halls of power. Along with our movement family in Straight Ahead and Free The Ballot, we organized volunteer canvasses in West Philly and Germantown, and hosted community events like a town hall with Kendra and Nic in West Philadelphia to get our people mobilized.
In Kendra’s first term, she did what we elected her to do: she worked tirelessly to fight for our public schools, defend community gardens, expand mobile crisis teams, and secure investments that serve everyday people in Philadelphia. Nicolas O’Rourke will do the same, and we know he will stand strong against the policies that uphold mass incarceration. We are also celebrating the re-election of another principled progressive leader, Jamie Gauthier, who won her race by a landslide to represent Council District 3 in West Philly. We know City Council is a tough job and we could not be more grateful to have these three powerhouse Black progressives representing our communities. They will lead with compassion and conviction and we will have their backs. This is a big win for our movement and for our city!
We are also heartened that our endorsed candidates Rue Landau and Isaiah Thomas won their elections. We know they will be key allies on important policy matters, like Isaiah Thomas's ‘Driving Equality’ legislation, which cuts down on frivolous and dangerous traffic stops by law enforcement. We celebrate Rue for making history as our first openly LGBTQ city council person—an accomplishment that was long past due.
We also celebrate the election of a number of judges we recommended, but in particular, we celebrate the election of Caroline Turner and Jessica Brown who both won their elections in the Spring primary without the support of the Democratic City Committee. There was a time in Philly when the machine was all-powerful, but we are seeing its dominance successfully contested, from its inability to stop Nic and Kendra to its loss of total control of judicial races.
With Republicans vanquished from City Council-At-Large, we have expanded ‘people power’ in City Hall. While the ballot box is one place in society where we register our power, we know we ultimately generate power by campaigning on the issues that matter most to our communities and getting new people organized to expand our movement. In the months ahead, we will continue to build our movement to get the resources our communities need to thrive. Sign up below to get involved so we can win the city our communities deserve!