Should the surprisingly successful outcomes achieved by outsider candidates in Philadelphia elections be interpreted as representing fundamental changes in the local political environment, or simply as one-off victories, based largely on serendipitous circumstances that advanced individual political careers? John Kromer’s insightful Philadelphia Battlefields considers key local campaigns undertaken from 1951 to 2019 that were extraordinarily successful despite the opposition of the city’s political establishment.
Kromer draws on election data and data-mapping tools that explain these upset elections as well as the social, economic, and demographic trends that influenced them to tell the story of why these campaign strategies were successful. He deftly analyzes urban political dynamics through case studies of newcomer Rebecca Rhynhart’s landslide victory over a veteran incumbent for Philadelphia City Controller; activist Chaka Fattah’s effective use of grassroots organizing skills to win a seat in Congress; and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s hard-fought struggle to become the first Hispanic woman to win a City Council seat, among others.
Philadelphia Battlefields shows how these candidates’ efforts to increase civic engagement, improve municipal governance, and become part of a new generation of political leadership at the local and state level were critical to their successes.