This year, voters will decide on Philadelphia’s 100th mayor, replacing incumbent Jim Kenney in the primary election. The highly anticipated race comes as the city continues facing what many consider its No. 1 issue: gun violence and public safety.
So far, the 2023 Philadelphia mayoral race is a crowded one, consisting of 11 mayoral candidates— 10 Democrats, and one Republican. As the race goes on, candidates are faced with challenges to address Philadelphia’s most pressing issues, including an unsettling economic outlook, the struggle to rebuild in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the highest priority, gun violence and public safety.
For the first time in years, public safety is being acknowledged as one of Philadelphia's most important topics in the election. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts last year, 70% of city residents view crime, drugs, and public safety as the biggest concern. As homicide and shooting rates have exacerbated over the past three years, voters and residents in the city are looking for the next mayor to confront the gun violence crisis.
A number of candidates in the race have already made public safety a key focus in their campaigns, expressing views on solving the issue of violence in one recent forum with some saying they would declare a state of emergency for the city. Others are proposing issues outside of law enforcement such as education and career training program investments, and increasing surveillance use to deter violence.
With this buzz on minimizing violence, many residents are calling for a new alliance between the Police Department and the communities it serves, with concerns about police funding being brought up to candidates. While no candidates currently support the defunding of police, a few say they will re-examine how the police spends its budget.
Public safety issues will continue to play a key role in voters’ considerations while candidates voice solutions through navigating development and ongoing community projects in the greater Philadelphia region. Gun violence and public safety continues being a pressing matter for residents, as well as candidates, and whoever the next mayor is, will have to address it.
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