Seven Philadelphians who would make a better mayor

City Hall
Image: Bruce Emmerling

Ajay Raju

The former Dilworth Paxson CEO has flirted with the top job since as far back as 2014 but never formally thrown his hat into the ring. Yet, he possesses many of the qualities a good mayor makes – having a strong business acumen and ability to lure investors; he’s been the leader of a massive law firm, so he knows how to problem-solve, delegate and negotiate, and he’s made many philanthropic efforts in the fields of media and technology. Then, of course, there’s his style – which could serve to either help or hinder him in a mayoral campaign – coming off as media-savvy or out of touch with the common man (or woman).

Allan Domb

As a real estate mogul, investor and broker, he knows how to cut deals and make money. As a City Councilman, he fought to wrangle in revenues from tax delinquents, identifying as much as $500 million in unpaid property taxes. His focus has been on school reform and new job growth. He’s railed against taxes, which he recognizes are a big reason families and businesses leave the city. Domb’s fiscally responsible approach to the budget and spending is what taxpayer’s appreciate. Should a campaign ever materialize, we know it would be self-funded, but is he willing to wager that coveted At-large seat and risk it all for a nomination? 

Kathy Barnette

First things first. Kathy would need to move a few miles southeast for her to be eligible to run for mayor. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Barnette lost a Congressional bid to Madeleine Dean in representing Montgomery County last November. She is among a rare few – Black, female and a Republican. A political outsider, she has an interesting story – she was raised on a pig farm, served in the military, and worked in corporate finance to get where she is today. What Barnette lacks in experience, she gains in authenticity. 

Sam Katz

Before you have time to say “Here we go again…” consider this – few people have the political fortitude of Sam Katz. Despite losing back-to-back to John Street, he still emerged as the highest vote getter of any Republican seeking the mayor’s office to date. A big history buff, he went on to found History Making Productions, which produces Philadelphia-based films and documentaries. Though he’s 71 now, his candidacy might still appeal to millennials and Gen Z-ers if they remember he’s cool because he got busted at the airport a few years back for trying to fly with a couple joints. Who cares? Everybody smokes weed these days, Sam.

Rebecca Rhynhart

The city controller’s office, along with City Council, is supposed to act as a check on what the mayor does with taxpayer money, and Rhynhart has done her job in holding her former boss accountable for how he’s spending it. She hit the ground running in 2017 when she modernized antiquated systems in the controller’s office and found ways to run the office more efficiently. Rooting out waste, investigating fraud and exposing corruption have been her stated focus areas. In 2018, she released an audit that revealed the city had lost track of $33 million and called for a freeze on raising taxes until it was sorted out. Her report of the city’s calamity of a failure that was last summer proved she is continuing the work of the watchdog. Between Domb and Rhynhart alone, just think what else is left on the table year after year?

Bill McSwain

McSwain did more to fight crime and prosecute criminals in Philadelphia than our own district attorney, Larry Krasner. A Marine veteran, he focused on violent crime and public corruption during his tenure and fought (and won) against supervised heroin injection sites in South Philly and Kensington, sparing those neighborhoods the invitation of even more drug use. If the city has an opioid epidemic, a gun-violence crisis and a City Hall rife with public corruption, my money’s on McSwain to turn the tide. And as a proponent of individual liberties and free speech, he’d probably let parades happen again.

Michael Nutter

OK, so I know the city’s Home Rule Charter caps mayoral terms at two, but I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say Mix Master Mike would be welcomed back to City Hall with open arms. Comparing him to his predecessor and his successor alone – Nutter looks pretty shiny, and I’m not talking about his head. He increased the city’s bond rating, a big haul. He got Pope Francis to visit – nearly impossible. Crime went down. Business boomed. We got outdoor beer gardens and bike lanes (sorry, Stu). Nutter was about growing the city as a whole, making it attractive for younger people to want to live, work and play here. That’s what’s lacking right now, big time. And – he was always approachable – not like our current hermit-in-charge.  

  • PW Editor Jenny DeHuff

    Jenny DeHuff has been a part of the Philadelphia media landscape for the last 15 years on just about every level of journalism. She started out at The Bulletin, a conservative voice for Philadelphia, then moved through the region as she honed her career as the City Hall reporter at the Daily News, and later as an editor at Philly Voice. As Philadelphia Weekly's editor-in-chief, DeHuff brings a viewpoint that constantly begs the question of a progressive-leaning Philadelphia. Say hello at

More Popular Articles

Upcoming Philly Events