Even before last week, it was clear that Seth Anderson-Oberman, challenger to incumbent 8th District Councilmember Cindy Bass, was generating buzz.
Even before last week, it was clear that Seth Anderson-Oberman, challenger to incumbent 8th District Councilmember Cindy Bass, was generating buzz throughout parts of the district, especially in his hometown neighborhood of Germantown and in Chestnut Hill, where he recently won the endorsement of 9th Ward Democrats. But one big question remained for the former union organizer: Can he raise enough money?
That question was answered last Tuesday when the latest round of campaign finance reports were released. Not only did Anderson-Oberman out-raise Bass, he also out-raised every district council candidate in the entire city running in a competitive primary. Of the seven people now vying for three contested district council seats, Anderson-Oberman was the only one to raise more than $100,000 during the reporting period, which goes from Jan. 1, 2023, to March 27, 2023. His contributions totaled $103,618.10 to Bass’ $91,495.00.
Nate Holt, the Anderson-Oberman campaign’s finance director, told the Local in a phone call that his campaign’s fundraising total, which included 1,100 individual contributions from more than 750 donors, signals “a desire for change” in the district.
“It’s shared not by few but by many,” he said. “It speaks to the power of people-driven campaigns that put people above profits.”
In an emailed statement, Bass’ campaign manager Terressa Thompson said the race is “an election, not an auction.”
“Look at Mayor [Karen] Bass’ win in Los Angeles - outspent by more than $100 million a few weeks ago," she added.
There are only two other competitive district council primaries in the city – one in the 7th District, and another in the 9th. The 7th Councilmanic District, which had been represented by Maria Quiñones-Sánchez before she resigned to run for mayor, consists of parts of Kensington, North Philadelphia, Fairhill, Juniata and Feltonville. The 9th Councilmanic District consists of parts of West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Cedarbrook, Lawncrest and Olney. It previously had been represented by Cherelle Parker before she also resigned to run for mayor.
The 8th District race is easily the most expensive of the three, with Anderson-Oberman and Bass collectively raising just over $195,000. That’s almost double the 9th District race’s total of almost $111,000 – and that race has three candidates: Yvette Young, Anthony Phillips and James Williams. The 7th District race between Andrés Celin and Quetcy Lozada has just over $102,000 in donations. Lozada and Phillips are technically incumbents in their district, but were only appointed after the recent resignations of Quiñones-Sánchez and Parker.
Phillips, who raised just over $97,000, Anderson-Oberman and Bass are far and away the biggest fundraisers of the district council candidates, each raising at least $91,000. Lozada, who has raised the fourth highest total, has raised a total of just under $54,000.
Outraising Bass, according to Committee of Seventy policy director Patrick Christmas, is something Anderson-Oberman really needs to do in order to be competitive.
“Name recognition is a pretty substantial advantage, and incumbents have more of a built out political network,” Christmas said. “I think it’s fair to say that the burden is on challengers to fundraise substantially to close the incumbent’s advantage.”
Since Anderson-Oberman is keeping track with Bass on fundraising, Christmas said the race could come down to two things: the amount of grassroots support they can generate and the number of sample ballots each candidate can get their name on.
“In these district races, it won’t be a matter of getting on TV or radio,” Christmas said. “It’ll be about literature in front of polling places. Even with mail-in voting taking away some of that voter contact outside of a polling place, most folks will still be voting on Tuesday.”
In addition to earning the endorsement of Chestnut Hill’s 9th Ward Democrats, Anderson-Oberman also won the endorsement of the 22nd Ward’s Open Caucus, an influential rump group of progressive committeepeople who splintered off from the rest of the ward due to differences with Bass, who also serves as the 22nd Ward’s leader. The 22nd Ward Democrats, as a whole, have yet to make endorsements.
Anderson-Oberman has gained a following in Germantown, where he lives, but Germantown’s 59th ward’s leader, Patrick Jones, has endorsed Bass. And while Anderson-Oberman’s support in both the 9th and 22nd Wards appears to be strong, the two wards only account for about a quarter of all registered voters in the 8th District, which includes six other wards in its southeastern half. Still, however, the two wards have been historically more politically active – and accounted for 37 percent of all votes cast in the district during the 2022 presidential election.
At-large contenders from the Northwest
Eryn Santamoor, a Chestnut Hill resident running for the at-large race, finished 4th among at-large candidates in total funds raised with $150,057 raised. Mt. Airy resident Nina Ahmad, finished in 5th place with $138,525 raised. Germantown resident and at-large candidate Erika Almiron finished in 11th place with $74,728 raised. Mt. Airy residents Abu Edwards and Christopher Gladstone Booth finished further down in the pack, raising $13,331.00 and $2,323.01, respectively.
The Chestnut Hill Local is joining several community organizations to co-sponsor a debate between Bass and Anderson-Oberman at the Germantown Jewish Centre in Mt. Airy on Wednesday, April 26. The event starts at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The Democratic primary is May 16.