Two Jewish women have joined what is expected to be a crowded field for Philadelphia City Council’s at-large seats.
Third-time candidate Sherrie Cohen and first-timer Beth Finn have announced plans to run as Democrats for Philadelphia City Council.
This year, the primary is May 21 and the general election is Nov. 5.
The women hope to fill two of the seven at-large seats. (In Philadelphia, no party is allowed to hold more than five at-large seats. Historically this has meant that five Democrats and two Republicans serve at-large.)
Cohen kicked off her campaign on Jan. 30. She noted that she garnered more votes the second time she ran than the first and hopes to continue that trend.
Cohen, a Philadelphia native and daughter of the late City Councilman David Cohen, is a tenant rights attorney and has a history of social justice activism, having worked on issues like criminal justice reform and education justice work.
Her platform is a bold one, she said, “by taking stands to push for an end to mass incarceration, to push for housing to be seen as a human right, to push to abolish ICE.”
Judaism is an important part of her identity as well, and she credits it as key to forming her stance on social justice issues. She is involved in the Tikkun Olam Chavurah and POWER, an interfaith organization that represents more than 50 congregations in Pennsylvania. If she wins, she would also be the first openly LGBTQ city councilperson.
Philadelphia is facing a multitude of crises, Cohen said. She listed affordable housing, eviction and education among them.
“To me, all of this is a moral crisis,” Cohen said. “I want to speak to the issue of morality. I want to ask what kind of city do we want to live in.”
She has a long list of goals for herself in office. She wants to pursue housing justice; work against racial bias in policing, prosecution and incarceration; implement a $15 minimum wage; see tax-exempt universities and hospitals make payments in lieu of taxes; and support the Green New Deal.
“I want to be a voice for the most marginalized people in our city and everyone who needs a voice, from women, from the LGBTQ community, from poor people, from tenants,” Cohen said. “I care deeply about those who struggle with poverty wages, with housing insecurity, with gun violence, with the prison industrial complex, so many systems that traumatize people.”
Finn, a technologist and program manager for a health care analytics company, launched her campaign on Dec. 6 with a latkes and vodka party.
She began getting involved in organizing about 15 years ago, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
She met many people during that journey who didn’t have access to the same health care she did, so after she recovered she went to Washington, D.C., and lobbied for more funding for brain tumor research. She also organized the Race for Hope for the brain tumor community. Eventually, her logistics experience led her to a role organizing the Philly Women Rally’s Women’s March.
“Working with the Women’s March showed me how much disparity there is in Philadelphia between people who have access to things and people who don’t,” said Finn, who belongs to Congregation Rodeph Shalom. “That disparity is heartbreaking to me. All the people who live in Philadelphia should have access to all the great things we have to offer.”
She grew up in northern Virginia, went to the University of Delaware and “just kept moving north,” she said. Her work, as well as a partner who is a native Philadelphian, brought her here about a decade ago. She lives in Society Hill now.
As a city councilwoman, she said, she would focus on fixing infrastructure, maintaining affordable housing and creating economic opportunity such as through the implementation of a $15 minimum wage.
Finn is not the only Women’s March organizer running. Deja Alvarez, a co-president of the march, has also announced plans to run.
“We want to make the city into the best place it can be,” Finn said. “It’s really exciting to be surrounded by people who have so much vision. More choice for voters is good. They will choose the best five of us to move on.” l
[email protected]; 215-832-0729