Philadelphia’s 2023 LGBTQ+ Voter’s Guide: Mayor/City Council

With Pennsylvania’s upcoming general election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, there are a number of positions up for the taking, and candidates are continuing to work toward earning votes to secure their seats. PGN compiled this guide to assist voters in understanding each candidate running for major positions in Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s government, along with their backgrounds and how we can expect them to support the LGBTQ+ community.

The races included in this guide are Mayor, City Council at Large and Councilmember for District 10. PGN put together this information either through independent research of the candidates’ LGBTQ+ track record or reaching out to the candidates directly about their stance on LGBTQ+ issues.

You can also read our voter’s guide on Supreme Court and judge candidates here.


David Oh (R)

Former Councilmember David Oh is a military veteran and was the first Asian American to hold political office in Philadelphia. Having a background in law, he has previously worked as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, and has spent his time in Council working on initiatives to improve public safety, educational outcomes, economic development and vulnerable populations. If elected mayor, his objectives include tackling crime with increased police presence, addressing education reform through adjusting the school board model to give voice to parents, and increasing economic activity by supporting local industries. Additionally, he aims to support the city with improved infrastructure and clean public spaces, and reforming the local government’s tax collection.

Oh’s propositions for supporting the LGBTQ+ community are reflective of his public safety initiatives. In addressing crime toward trans people in the community, he has advocated for police presence at LGBTQ+ events, telling PGN that, “…when we show visibly that we’re there to serve and protect, that sends a message to people that this is not a city where you can just come in here and assault, attack or shoot at people.” Prior to the primary election, Oh was not among the mayoral candidates to attend PGN’s event opposing anti-drag legislation

Cherelle Parker (D)

Cherelle Parker is the first woman to win Philadelphia’s mayoral primary, and she has a long history with government service. Starting in high school, she was an intern for previous Philadelphia City Councilmember Marian B. Tasco. Since then, she has served as the state representative for Northwest Philadelphia and later as a city councilmember. Parker has worked to secure funding for local public schools, protect victims of sexual violence, implement the Neighborhood Policing and Community Safety Plan, and raise the minimum wage for city contract employees. If elected mayor, Parker intends to create jobs with clean city initiatives, increase minimum wage to match inflation rates, keep schools open for longer to meet needs of working parents, implement year-round schooling, address police personnel challenges, invest in community engagement to increase public safety, as well as other initiatives.

Parker has worked with Liberty City Democratic Club and was an advocate for LGBTQ+ partners while serving on City Council. She intends for her administration to have “zero tolerance for discrimination against any community and/or constituency,” and to be a voice for trans women of color and other members of the LGBTQ+ community facing continued violence through her public safety initiatives. Parker highlights the actions of allied communities throughout the Civil Rights Movement, and will demonstrate her support to the LGBTQ+ community likewise, telling PGN, “I want my record to speak for itself, not a speech, not my participation simply in a march, but when the cameras are off, and when no one can see.” Parker additionally attended PGN’s event opposing anti-drag legislation.

City Council at Large*

Nina Ahmad (D)

If elected, Dr. Nina Ahmad would be the first South Asian American (having grown up in Bangladesh) as well as the only scientist on City Council. Dr. Ahmad currently serves as president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization for Women and has previously served as Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement. Her past initiatives also include launching the city’s Commission for Women and supporting the Youth Commission and the Office of Black Male Engagement. Dr. Ahmad is also an “advocate of those left behind,” and intends to take a progressive approach to tackling issues of gun violence, housing and the environment.

Having grown up in a progressive household with close family members in the LGBTQ+ community, Dr. Ahmad has been a lifelong ally. She stated that this upbringing “…increased my awareness and appreciation of the continued struggles, the amazing resilience, and courage of this community…I absolutely support LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination policies and not just because I have a child who identifies as queer and has a nonbinary trans partner.” Ahmad has a history of advocacy for the community, and locally, she assisted in the formation of the Office of LGBT Affairs and designing the online recruitment of the members of the LGBT Commission.

Kendra Brooks (WFP-Incumbent)

Councilmember Kendra Brooks has spent her first term working to give the people of Philadelphia more power. Her efforts are rooted in community organizing, having initially worked in public service as an advocate for issues such as improving public schools and combating gun violence and racist housing policies. If elected for a second term, Brooks intends to continue tackling these issues as well as reforming the economy for the working people, protecting reproductive rights, addressing the climate crisis and its effects on the community, and expanding voting rights.

Councilmember Brooks has also emphasized how the issue of housing rights has affected the local LGBTQ+ community. In 2020, she told PGN that, “…housing discrimination is something that I see as an issue in primarily the Black gay community.” As a mother to a gender-nonconforming child, Brooks has a firsthand awareness of the importance of support for the LGBTQ+ community. She has spoken on these needs directly, as she previously shared with PGN that, “everyone deserves equality…to love who you love and be who you are…nobody else has the right to judge you or exclude you and everyone should stand toward making sure that you’re not discriminated against…” Brooks also spoke out against Moms for Liberty’s national convention in Philadelphia, and the statement can be found on her Twitter.

Katherine Gilmore Richardson (D-Incumbent)

Katherine Gilmore Richardson became the youngest woman and youngest African American woman when elected to her first term serving City Council at Large. As a councilmember, she has passed legislation to bolster transparency and accountability in city government, requirements for businesses to provide workforce training information, environmental initiatives for sustainable investments into the City’s Pension Fund, as well as others. Gilmore Richardson also created Philadelphia’s Apprenticeship Guidebook and has been an advocate for the city’s public schools and technical schools. She was appointed to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) and is the Vice Chair of the LGAC’s Environmental Justice Working Group.

Prior to being elected to her first term, Councilmember Gilmore Richardson has worked on legislation supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia. As a legislative aid for former City Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown, she worked on the Equal Benefits Bill, ensuring benefits for all city employees and their partners, as well as legislation to permanently install the Office of LGBT Affairs to the local government. She previously spoke with PGN regarding the health and safety of the LGBTQ+ community, especially regarding trans people of color, saying that, “we need to ensure that that community is protected…” She additionally emphasized keeping our community in mind in ongoing legislation, stating, “We’re one city, and our city continues to progress forward with individuals of all backgrounds.”

Jim Harrity (D-Incumbent)

Prior to his initial election as sitting councilmember, Jim Harrity worked a number of jobs within the city and state government, most recently as political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. A self-described “regular guy,” Harrity’s years struggling with addiction have motivated him to dedicate his career to helping others, and outside of City Council, he is a board member of the substance-abuse recovery organization One Day at a Time. As a councilmember, his reelection objectives include targeting gun violence by means of increased surveillance, improving infrastructure in public spaces and education centers, providing better employment and livable wages for the people of Philadelphia, as well as others. Harrity told the Committee of Seventy that, “the people of Philadelphia deserve nothing less than a sincere effort by all elected officials to address the many challenges we face.” 

PGN previously endorsed Councilmember Harrity candidacy during the primary; his team did not respond to our requests for a statement addressing the LGBTQ+ community.

Jim Hasher (R)

Jim Hasher is a seasoned businessman, currently the President of Hasher Reality, Inc. and the owner and operator of Jimmy’s Timeout Sports Pub. His passion for athletics is reflected in his history of work with the Torresdale Boys Club and as founder of the AAU basketball program, Northeast Sting. If elected, Hasher intends to address issues of public safety and gun violence with increased sentencing and competitive police salaries, supporting the economy with decreases in City Wage Tax, growing the population of city workers with affordable housing, and investing in education to support Philadelphia’s youth as much as possible. His initiatives also include reallocating money from the city to fight the opioid epidemic to funding support programs for substance abuse, improving quality of life with cleaner streets and neighborhoods, as well as others.

Jim Hasher’s team did not respond to PGN’s requests for a statement addressing the LGBTQ+ community.

Rue Landau (D)

Rue Landau has built a career of activism and organizing. She currently works as a civil rights attorney, a position she has used to aid housing rights for the city’s most vulnerable communities through Community Legal Services. Landau has also served as director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Fair Housing Commission, supporting civil rights and housing enforcement in the community. If elected to Council, she intends to provide answers to the various challenges that Philadelphia faces, such as prioritizing community solutions to combat gun violence, improving affordable housing options, and investing in our neighborhoods and their environments. Additionally, she is aiming to increase funding for city services and identify areas with the greatest need for resources, as well as address the underfunding of city public schools to create safe and equitable learning environments.

If elected, Landau would become Philadelphia’s first openly LGBTQ+ councilmember. She has a history of engagement with the local community, having organized social services as a member of ACT UP during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She also oversaw community relations initiatives to combat hate crimes against communities of color and the queer community. Landau has demonstrated her pride as an LGBTQ+ individual throughout her campaign and has been a regular presence at city Pride events. Additionally, she was among City & State PA’s 2023 Pride Power 100, featuring the state’s most influential LGBTQ+ figures.

Drew Murray (R)

Drew Murray is a regional sales manager for O’Brien Systems, where he has worked for the entirety of his career. He is a leader in Philadelphia’s 15th Ward and has served on boards for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition, Friends of Coxe Park, Center City District and Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. His campaign focuses on addressing quality of living by tackling increased crime rates (propositions include increased Philadelphia Police Department funding and having harder policies on crime) and opposing safe injection sites. Murray additionally addresses a number of tax issues, including opposing the soda tax, real estate tax reform, and reducing the wage tax. He also highlights educational initiatives, such as endorsing school choice and championing trade schools and universal pre-K.

When reaching out to PGN, Murray said, “I am a lifetime ally of the LGBTQ community.” He has been endorsed numerous times by the Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization representing conservative members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.  

Nicolas O’Rourke (WFP)

Nicolas O’Rourke cites his upbringing in a proud, Black, working-class family as core influences on his objectives if elected to City Council. He aims to support Philadelphia families to earn living wages with workplace protections and benefits, as well as creating more tenant protections and affordable housing options. O’Rourke also intends to tackle issues of gun violence and improve the justice system by way of combating white supremacy and promoting innovative rehabilitation systems. Other objectives include protecting reproductive rights and the ability to seek safe, affordable care and addressing climate justice needs in Philadelphia.

O’Rourke has historically demonstrated his support for the LGBTQ+ community, having previously spoken to PGN regarding LGBTQ+ access to healthcare. As a third-party candidate (Working Families Party), he has aimed to take the spot of Republican Councilmembers to be a progressive voice for the community, saying, “making sure that those seats are no longer being occupied by persons who are advocating for the oppression and suppression of queer-identifying folk is a major issue.” Additionally, this past June he took to social media to make a statement of support for the LGBTQ+ community, including that, “solidarity means actively denouncing homophobia and transphobia at every turn.”

Isaiah Thomas (D-Incumbent)

City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’ campaign for reelection highlights his record with public safety initiatives. His work includes passing Driving Equality legislation, securing funding for anti-gun violence initiatives, and chairing City Council’s Committee on Streets and Services. Thomas also authored the Black Workers Matter Bill, giving priority aid to the disproportionate number of people of color laid off during the pandemic, as well as Keep It Local, ensuring that diverse, Philadelphia-based businesses can receive government contracts. Additionally, as Chair of the City Council Committee on Education, Thomas has worked to engage Philadelphia’s youth and their families to improve their schools’ culture and curriculum, and to provide more out-of-school programming.

Councilmember Thomas intends to continue building an inclusive future for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community. Thomas joined the community at this year’s Philly Pride Festival and participated in demonstrations opposing the Mom’s for Liberty National Summit that was held in Center City this past June. In a statement, Thomas said, “Everyone of every race, color, sexual orientation, and gender identity deserves to see themselves represented in literature…To those groups being unjustly targeted this weekend: we hear you, we see you, and we will continue to stand up for what is right so you can go on loving and thriving in the City of Philadelphia.” 

*Seven of these nine candidates with the most votes will win; voters can cast their vote for up to five the candidates on the ballot

District Council – 10th District**

Gary Masino (D)

Gary Masino is a third-generation sheet-metal worker and current president and business manager of the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 19. As a labor leader, Masino has been inspired to lift up members of the community through neighborhood investment and local engagement. His campaign platforms address the city’s safety needs, including tackling the heightened crime rate in the city through increased police officer recruitment and legislation to crack down on illegal firearms, as well as ensuring safer school conditions for students. Masino also intends to support educational needs with funding for technical schools and increased teacher wages. These propositions relate to his economic goals of incentivizing working families to stay in the city, and in turn being able to support local business. 

When PGN asked Masino why the LGBTQ+ community should vote for him, he stated that, “I want to make it clear that I am fully committed to inclusivity, equality, and diversity in our city. My campaign is founded on the principles of equal rights and social justice for all residents.” Additionally, he emphasized the importance of ensuring the same rights and opportunities for members of the queer community, saying, “I will work tirelessly to advance policies promoting nondiscrimination, improving access to healthcare, and fostering a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.” Masino looks forward to continued conversations with the LGBTQ+ community about how he can best continue to offer support. 

Brian O’Neill (R-Incumbent)

Sitting Councilmember Brian O’Neill’s main goal is preserving and improving the quality of life for his constituents in the city’s 10th District. He maintains full-time offices in that area to be regularly present for community members, also being a supporter of their local nonprofit organizations. In his role as a councilmember, O’Neill has fought against unwanted development in his district and in favor of investment in their recreation centers, parks and libraries. Additionally, he has introduced legislation to increase the homestead extension, invested in community playgrounds, and has been a strong supporter of law-enforcement. 

Councilmember O’Neill’s team did not respond to PGN’s requests for a statement addressing the LGBTQ+ community.

**Other districts not mentioned are running unopposed

This article is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
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