Former Councilmember Helen Gym picked up a valuable endorsement in her quest for the Democratic nomination for mayor from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on Monday afternoon.
The PFT represents more than 13,000 teachers, librarians, school nurses, counselors, psychologists and social workers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, classroom assistants, non-teaching assistants, supportive services assistants, Head Start/Comprehensive Early Learning Center and Bright Futures teachers and staff, food service managers and professional and technical employees.
The members voted overwhelmingly for the union to pick Gym, who won four times as many votes as the candidate who finished in second, said Jerry Jordan, president of the PFT.
“Helen is the candidate that PFT members know and trust,” said Jordan.
The PFT completed a lengthy endorsement process, which included opportunities for every member to vote on an endorsement as well as a Mayoral forum to hear from candidates.
Gym, a former teacher who in 2006 founded the organization Parents United for Public Schools, is a longtime activist who for years railed against the state-controlled School Reform Commission, the board that ran the School District of Philadelphia for 17 years.
She also picked up the backing of the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance on Monday. The political organization got off the ground with the support of Gym and will commit approximately $400,000 toward encouraging people to vote for her in over a dozen languages, API PA Executive Director Mohan Seshadri told Billy Penn.
“Philadelphia needs a champion who’s fighting for parents, working families, and Philadelphian’s everywhere. Helen Gym has always been our champion, she has always stood by us and fought for our communities,” the organization said of their supported candidate on their website.
“I’m standing before you today as a public school teacher, as someone who knows what it’s like to look at this city through the eyes of children and their parents,” said Gym, who just turned 55.
Jordan said in an interview that he wasn’t surprised by the outcome, saying Gym “has been around the members of the PFT for literally decades.” He recalled marching alongside her more than 20 years ago in protest of the state takeover of the city’s school district.
“She’s been with us when in fact no other [mayoral candidate] was,” he said.
The PFT’s endorsement usually comes with a strong ground game to get out the vote – extremely helpful in municipal election years. Under Philadelphia’s campaign-finance laws, the group can only contribute $25,200 to her campaign.
The endorsement of Gym offers a counterweight to the endorsement received by Jeff Brown, who picked up the nod from AFSCME earlier in the month.