Independent City Council candidate's timing an issue

Independent City Council candidate's timing an issue

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Sherrie Cohen, an out lesbian, is running for a seat on City Council as an Independent candidate in the general election after having relinquished her primary run as a Democrat.

But Deja Alvarez, a trans woman of color who lost her primary Council bid, said Cohen violated deadline procedure and should be precluded from running.

Cohen, 64, sought to run as a Democrat in the May 21 primary, but dropped out of the race in April after her former campaign manager made negative comments about Alvarez’s ancestry during a Trans Day of Visibility celebration.

Alvarez ran as a Democrat for an at-large Council seat. Had she won, she would have been the first openly trans member of the municipal governing body.

Of Council’s 17 seats, seven are at-large, including two reserved for non-Democrats — which Republicans have held. Cohen aims to fill one of those posts as an Independent in the Nov. 5 general election.

In an interview with PGN, Cohen maintained she withdrew from the primary in time to make a bid for the general election. However, Alvarez has contended her former fellow candidate didn’t make the withdrawal deadline.

During a three-hour hearing Monday in City Hall, presided by Common Pleas Judge Abbe F. Fletman, a representative of the Republican City Committee joined with Alvarez to have Cohen’s name removed from the ballot.

Still, Cohen said she’s optimistic Fletman will rule in her favor.

“The law is clearly on my side,” the candidate said after the hearing. “I followed the law completely. My timing was perfectly legal. Everything I did was proper.”

Cohen — daughter of late Philadelphia Councilman David Cohen and, like her father, known for social-justice advocacy — unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for Council-at-Large in 2011 and 2015.

“I’m seeking to educate the public that this is an option to not vote straight Democratic on Nov. 5,” she said. “Instead, vote for me as an Independent for an at-large seat. Then vote for other candidates of your choice.”

Cohen said the controversy with Alvarez wasn’t the only reason she chose to drop out of the primary.

“It was one of the factors that contributed to my decision to leave the race. But the overall reason was that I didn’t see a path to victory. So I withdrew from it.”

A victory for Cohen, as she noted, also would be groundbreaking, as City Council never had an “out” LGBTQ member. 

“I’m seeking the support of the LGBTQ community because I think this is a great opportunity to succeed in electing one of our own,” she said.

Cohen added that Council needs progressives.

“I am a lifelong Democrat. But my candidacy [as an Independent] is an electoral strategy to get more progressives on Council. We progressives should not be conceding two of the seven at-large seats to Republicans.”

In an interview with PGN, Alvarez questioned Cohen’s honesty.

“I oppose how Sherrie lied to the community and said that she dropped out of the race to heal the community. That was an outright lie. She dropped out because she came up with a plan to run as an Independent because she wasn’t getting the support as a Democrat,” said Alvarez.

“I don’t want to attack her as a person, but I don’t want her on City Council,” she added. “I don’t want dishonest representation.”

Fletman’s ruling is expected in the next few days. 


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