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May 16, 2023

Philly's row office elections: Democratic incumbents embroiled in tight races for register of wills and sheriff

Row office elections don't get much attention, but these elected officials lead the offices that provide services that impact residents' lives

2023 Election Government
philly Row Office results Jon Tuleya/PhillyVoice

Among the elections taking place Tuesday, May 16, in Philadelphia are contested primaries for city controller, sheriff, and register of wills. The photo shows campaign signs along Ridge Avenue, near Rochelle Avenue, in Roxborough.

Philadelphia held its municipal primary election today. Voters are tasked with choosing party nominees for a variety of city offices, and though much attention has been placed on the high-profile mayor and city council races, there are plenty of down-ballot row offices up for grabs, including contested primaries for city controller, sheriff and register of wills. 

These elected officials are responsible for auditing the city's financial records, issuing marriage licenses, managing foreclosures and serving as judges in state and municipal courts.

PHILLY MAYOR'S RACE: Cherelle Parker wins Democrat's nomination for Philly mayor | PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL: Results for every race from Tuesday's primary elections

Below are the results in the primary elections for city controller, sheriff and register of wills, along with brief information about each of the candidates. Vote totals will be updated as they become available Tuesday night.

City Controller

The city controller works independently to provide audits and analyses of city spending and use of public resources. Controllers are elected to four-year terms, but this year's election is to fill the remaining two years of Rebecca Rhynhart's term, since she resigned to run for mayor. 

Christy Brady, the former acting city controller, who left the office in February, leads Alexandra Hunt by more than 14% early Wednesday morning with nearly 90% of precincts' counted.

Brady, a longtime employee in the controller's office, sued the city over its resign-to-run rule earlier this year. Hunt is a public health researcher who lost to U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans in last year's congressional primary, and the third-place candidate is John Thomas, who served as a deputy controller for 12 years.

Aaron Bashir, an accountant and former real estate investor who unsuccessfully ran against Rep. Brendan Boyle in the 2022 midterms, is the sole Republican candidate on the ballot.


The Sheriff's Office provides security for Philadelphia courtrooms and manages foreclosures. The office has come under increased scrutiny and calls for reform in recent years. 

Democrats have three candidates to choose from, including incumbent Rochelle Bilal, who leads Michael Untermeyer by less than 3% with 90% of precincts' votes counted.

Bilal has been sheriff since 2019 and came under fire earlier this year for using funds meant for hiring deputies to increase the salaries of Sheriff's Office executives.

Untermeyer, is a real estate investor who previously served as deputy district attorney and deputy state attorney general. Also running in Democratic primary is Jackie Miles, security director for the Washington Wizards.

Mark Lavelle, a lifelong resident of the city's River Wards who says he is running to improve transparency and accountability in the Sheriff's Office, is the lone Republican on the ballot.

Register of Wills

The register of wills is tasked with probating wills and helping when residents die without leaving wills. The office keeps track of estate records, serves as a state agent for filing inheritance taxes and grants marriage licenses.

With nearly 90% of divisions reporting by early Wednesday morning, incumbent Tracey Gordon is losing to John Sabatina, a retired real estate lawyer and longtime Philadelphia ward leader.

Gordon was elected in 2019, and last month, she was accused of firing an employee who did not donate to her reelection campaign. 

Also on the Democratic ballot are Rae Hall, a Kenney administration employee who worked in the Register of Wills' office for four years, and Elizabeth Hall Lowe, a GlaxoSmithKline employee.

Linwood Holland, leader of the 35th Republican Ward, is the sole Republican candidate for Register of Wills.

City Commissioners

Philadelphia's city commissioners are a three-member bipartisan board of elected officials tasked with overseeing elections and voter registration. Voters choose up to two candidates, and the top two voter-getters from each party advance. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the November election are elected to board. If both of those candidates are Democrats — which has historically been the case in Philadelphia – the third member of the board would automatically be a Republican or, potentially, an independent candidate.

The Democrats on the ballot are Lisa Deeley, chair of the city commissioners who was first elected in 2016, and Omar Sabir, vice-chair of the city commissioners who was first elected in 2019. Seth Bluestein, who has served as city commissioner since early 2022, is the sole Republican candidate.