A Republican Woman in a Race of Democratic Men

Image taken from R'lyeh Imaging on Flickr
Image taken from R’lyeh Imaging on Flickr

A non-native Philadelphian, a Republican, and a woman, Melissa Murray Bailey is an outsider in many ways in the 2015 Philadelphia mayoral election, with every one of her unique characteristics making her less and less likely to potentially hold the office.

The last time Philadelphia gave the office to a Republican was in 1948, according to the city’s Department of Records. The last time it elected a woman– was never. Bailey also faces candidates, like Democrat James Kenney, who have lived in Philadelphia their whole lives, who have an intrinsic understanding of the city’s history, culture, and values.

Kenney’s primary talking point, making sure that zip-codes no longer define the financial and educational opportunities available for Philadelphians, no doubt appeals to the people of one of the poorest cities in the country. He plays his “born and raised in Philly” card well to his advantage, and his Twitter bio reads, “Born & raised in South Philly, proud son of a firefighter.”

Davis Thal, a senior a Film and Media Arts student at Temple University, believes not being from Philadelphia could be problematic for Bailey’s campaign and for how effectively she would be able to govern the city.

“She didn’t grow up knowing about Philadelphia,” he says.

Kenney has also proudly announced his plans to repair the disparity between police officers and the communities they are meant to protect, portraying himself as a vigilante of social justice.

Yet Bailey told Philly.com that to her, being a Republican in Philadelphia does indeed mean being “open to every type of Philadelphian,” which, she admits, people often don’t associate with the Republican party. She emphasizes that her brand of Republicanism mainly focuses on fiscal conservatism. 

At Philadelphia’s Temple University, which mostly composes of either students from Philadelphia who chose to remain in the city for college outsiders drawn to what Philadelphia has to offer for millennials, there is a largely democratic community. Nonetheless, some students remain somewhat open minded in regards to a candidate’s political affiliation.

Charlie Ries, a graduate student at Temple, admits that he’s glad to see some competition in local politics stemming from the party divide.

“Politically, it might matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican. People have that root-for-the-home-team mentality. But I don’t think it makes you more or less capable to hold office.”

He says he thinks Philadelphia is unlikely to vote a Republican into office, “given the demographics like income level and racial demographics.”

“People’s perception of a candidate is based on national figures. When people see Republicans, they see Donald Trump.”

Both Thal and Ries admit they haven’t been as up to date on the mayoral race as they would like to be. They claim to be unaware of Bailey’s particular views on the issues at large in the race. But, they each get the sense that Republican ideals, regardless of the candidate who represents them, are still unwelcome to the majority of Philadelphians.