City Councilman David Oh announced his run as a Republican candidate for mayor this week. He might be about 16 years too late.
If you’re going to have a campaign announcement, there are few places nicer to have it than the National Constitution Center.
The Constitution Center is easily my favorite museum here in Philly. A few years back, it played host to an exhibit featuring the late Jackie Robinson that my husband Chris really liked. It’s also got lots of things, including Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s judicial robe, artifacts from the Civil Rights Movement, and takes an extensive look at the First Amendment.
Former City Councilmember David Oh used the National Constitution Center as a backdrop to announce his run for the Republican nomination for Mayor. He resigned his seat on City Council prior to the announcement and is the first Republican to declare his intentions for the seat.
I’ve been covering David Oh for a while. When he first ran for City Council at-Large, I endorsed his candidacy in a column that I wrote for the now-defunct Philadelphia Public Record because, frankly, the person he was running against was, to be generous, incompetent.
He’s done a lot during his time as a councilman, especially when it comes to the arts, through his Philly Idol program and his championing of a Music Office that would help the city’s music scene become a little more cohesive. He’s also championed the use of city funds to help relocate families who have been victimized by gun violence.
Oh has always been seen as Your Favorite Democrat’s Favorite Republican because while he adhered to some of the party’s economic stances, you wouldn’t have caught him dead at a Trump rally.
But while that made him popular in general elections, it didn’t always make him popular with Republicans. I can’t remember the last time that his chosen party endorsed David Oh in an election.
In a city with a 7:1 Democratic registration edge, Oh would have always had a tough road to hoe to become the next mayor. When folks in Philadelphia hear the word “Republican”, his isn’t the image that comes to mind.
But this year, Oh’s climb looks less like an uphill battle and more like more like an attempt to reach the summit at Mount Everest wearing a pair of Five Below filp-flops while carrying a backpack filled with nothing but Spam and bottled water.
If that sounds extreme, you’re right, it kind of is.
That’s because the obstacles Oh is going to face are extreme.
The registration edge, which is formidable, would have been negotiable depending on who the Democrats put up. There are some Democrats on the current list of Mayoral candidates that would defeat Oh easily, and there are others that he could give a run for their money.
Then, there’s the Republicans themselves. Depending on when you catch them, Philadelphia’s Republican Party is either disorganized or really disorganized. While it can make some noise in state races in Philadelphia on occasion and manages to send Brian O’Neill back to City Council every year, it doesn’t get a whole lot of assistance from the national party. We also can’t assume that the Republicans won’t send a primary challenger Oh’s way because of the aforementioned lack of support they’ve given him in the past.
To paraphrase my friends the WuTang Clan, Cash Rules Everything Around Us, and nowhere is that truer than in the world of politics. Philadelphia’s Republicans have never had a whole lot of money. And when they have had money, little, if any, of it has gone to Oh.
But probably the biggest challenge that Oh faces is that the landscape of politics itself has changed. When he entered the political scene almost 14 years ago, the moderate Republican brand he represented was something that folks found believable.
Donald Trump and company kinda changed all that. We don’t need to elaborate here.
So, while I’m sure that Oh will have his supporters, it’s going to be interesting to see how he gets the money he needs to put on a competitive campaign. It’ll also be interesting to see what impact, if any, the Democratic candidate has on his chances.
I’d like to see a close race, like the races between Republican Sam Katz and former Mayor John Street in the early 2000s. That would be cool.