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February 23, 2023

City Council President Darrell Clarke will not seek re-election

Clarke, 70, said Thursday he will finish out his term and continue in public service in Philadelphia

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Darrell Clarke Retire Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Council President Darrell Clarke announced he will not run for re-election in Phialdelphia's 5th District, where he has served since 1999.

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke, who has represented Philadelphia's 5th District since 1999, said Thursday he will not seek re-election later this year. Clarke will finish out the remaining 10 months of his current term, opening up the council presidency in an election year that will result in major turnover in the city's governing body.

Clarke, 70, made the announcement Thursday afternoon following a council meeting, explaining that it was a difficult decision and he considers his job the best in Philadelphia. Clarke, a Democrat, became Council President in 2012 and has held that position through two additional reelections in 2015 and 2019.

"At the end of the day, I think it's my time to do some other things," Clarke said. "I will continue to be involved in public service. I will max out for the next 10 months, as it relates to what I'm going to do with my collogues in the City Council of Philadelphia. There will be no slowing down."

Clarke's decision comes in an election year when multiple council members have resigned their seats to run for mayor, promising significant turnover in City Council. At least 12 of the 17 members sworn in next year will have served one term or be newly elected, the Inquirer reported.

Mayor Jim Kenney thanked Clarke for his service and their collaboration together during his two terms. 

“It’s been an honor to work alongside him on our shared goals – including education, housing, and jobs – and I congratulate him on a distinguished career in public service," Kenney said. "I look forward to working together over the next ten months to set a strong foundation for our city’s next chapter.” 

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Clarke has represented north central Philadelphia for more than two decades and served as council president during two mayoral administrations. His presidency played an instrumental role in gaining political power for City Council and giving members more discretion over what happens in their districts.

Veteran Democratic council members Kenyatta Johnson, Curtis Jones Jr., Cindy Bass and Mark Squilla all are expected to vie for Clarke's seat as president when the new council is seated in 2024. On Thursday, Clarke endorsed his former chief of staff, Curtis Wilkerson, in the the 5th District race that will likely feature several candidates.

Clarke tweeted Thursday afternoon that his focus is on leading council for the remainder of 2023. "We still have many things to accomplish," he wrote.