Philadelphia is by far the most Democratic county in Pennsylvania. In May of 2007, there were 993,334 registered voters. Democrats made up about 76 percent, and Republicans just 15 percent. In 2004, John Kerry received 80 percent of the local votes to George W. Bush’s 19 percent. Since 1932, Philadelphia has voted Democrat in every presidential election, and it has often been the only county in the entire state to do so. Philadelphia’s own resident Arlen Specter received less than one-third of the Philadelphia vote in the 2004 race for State Senate, which he won easily on the state level.
From the Civil War until 1951, Philadelphia was staunchly Republican. For many years, Philadelphia was dominated by a corrupt political machine. The Republican Party rode the successes of Lincoln and the Civil War to hold onto the mayor’s office through the 1950s despite wave after wave of reform movements by city activists. The machine controlled the city through voter fraud and intimidation, and through extensive patronage.
Reform efforts slowly changed city government, with the most significant change in 1950 when a new city charter strengthened the position of mayor and weakened the Philadelphia City Council. Other northern industrial cities elected Democratic mayors in the 1930s and 1940s, but Philadelphia didn’t join the trend until 1951. While the city switched allegiances to the Democratic Party in the 1950s, the reputation of Philadelphia as a city that is “corrupt but contented” survives to this day in the minds of many.
Philadelphia once had six congressional districts, but as a result of the city’s declining population it now has only four—all of which are Democratic. A Republican has not represented a significant portion of Philadelphia in any office since 1983.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition