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April 28, 2023

Philly's mayoral race lacks a clear frontrunner, first poll shows

Rebecca Rhynhart, Cherelle Parker, Helen Gym, Allan Domb and Jeff Brown are drawing similar amounts of support from voters

2023 Election Mayoral Race
Mayoral Race Poll Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

The first poll in the city's mayoral race show a close competition between shows Rebecca Rhynhart, Cherelle Parker, Helen Gym, Allan Domb and Jeff Brown. The Democratic primary is May 16.

No Philadelphia mayoral candidate has emerged as the favorite in the Democratic primary race despite the election being just 18 days away.

The first public poll, released Friday, shows Rebecca RhynhartCherelle ParkerHelen GymAllan Domb and Jeff Brown in a tight race. Twenty percent of Democratic voters remain undecided ahead of the May 16 primary.

Rhynhart, the former city controller, has gained the support of 18% of voters, according to the poll. Parker, Gym and Domb – all former city councilmembers – each have gained 14% to 17%. But the poll has a 3.8% margin of error, meaning none of them can stake a claim as the frontrunner. And Brown, the grocery store proprietor, has gained 11% of voters. 

The other candidates, including state Rep. Amen Brown, former judge James DeLeon and pastor Warren Bloom, polled no higher than 2%. 

The winner of the Democratic primary likely will become the next mayor, given the city's large Democratic base. David Oh, a former city councilmember, is the sole Republican candidate. 

The poll, commissioned by the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy, interviewed 1,500 Philadelphia adults by phone or text from April 21-25. The candidate percentages were drawn from the 1,013 Democratic respondents who said they had cast their ballots or were likely to do so.

"These results make clear what we knew all along: that every vote matters," said Lauren Cristella, Committee of Seventy interim president and COO. "We want every eligible voter to vote, to be informed when they vote, and to vote with confidence. This poll is a snapshot in time that hopefully gives voters an additional piece of information to use when they walk into a voting booth or complete a mail-in ballot." 

The poll shows Rhynhart is the leading choice of white voters, men, higher-income voters and Center City residents. Parker is tops among Latino voters, Northwest Philly residents, Black voters and people ages 50 to 64. Gym leads voters who consider themselves to be "very liberal" and trails Rhynhart slightly among white and high-income voters. 

Domb is the favorite among Northeast Philly residents and has the edge among moderate and conservative voters, slightly ahead of Parker. He also leads among voters with high school diplomas. Brown is faring well among the older voters, conservatives, those with a high school education and those who have attended some college. 

Among early voters, Gym has earned 20% and Brown has received 17%, the poll found. 

"With multiple candidates within the confidence interval and a fifth of likely voters still undecided, the race is still wide open," said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition.

The poll also asked voters to choose candidates using a ranked-choice voting system, which eliminates candidates one by one until one person has received more than 50% of the vote. Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, is used by about 60 cities, including New York. Philadelphia does not utilize it, but 53% of poll respondents said they would support ranked-choice voting. 

When the poll asked voters to rank their choices for mayor, Rhynhart gained 19% of the vote. Parker, Gym and Domb each gained 15-17%; Brown gained 12%. In that scenario, 15% of voters remained undecided.

Philadelphia's primary election will be held on Tuesday, May 16. Polls open at 8 a.m. Voters can check their polling locations here. They also can learn how the candidates feel about the proposed Sixers arena, public safety policies and recent unionization efforts at colleges and museums.