David Oh. (Photo: Burkett Photography & ¡Presente! Media)

Cherelle Parker is the Democratic candidate for Philadelphia Mayor, which has been the governing party over the past 70 years, and she’s most likely to continue that trend.  The Republican candidate for mayor, David Oh, has said he feels confident that this time may be a surprise.

David Oh was born in Southwest Philadelphia in 1960, he was born to Korean parents.

David’s father was born in China during the Second World War because of the Japanese occupation of Korea at that time.  While in the United States, David’s father founded a church where he became the pastor.  Faith is a very important aspect of David Oh’s life, and he is not shy to talk about it.

Oh graduated from Rutgers Law and worked briefly at the District Attorney’s office until, one day, while walking past a recruiter’s office for the Army National Guard, he enlisted in 1988 at the age of 28. 

Oh was called up for Desert Storm and served some time in Fort Bragg, rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Army National Guard.  After his service, Oh founded a private practice until his first stint with politics in 2003 for a city council seat.

Although he would come to lose the race, Oh states that at the time, he was “only expected to get about 20,000 votes,” but he ended up with close to 98,000 votes. 

In 2007 Oh ran again for council, and this time, according to Oh’s own words, “we had won on election night…  when absentee ballots came in, we had lost.”  

Oh, would lose his race in 2007 by a couple of hundred votes.  As in life, in politics’ third time’s usually the charm.  In 2011 Oh would win his seat on council, winning reelection in 2015 and 2019.  He has resigned from his elected position in accordance with Charter rules to run for Mayor. 

Republican candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia David Oh. (Photo: Burkett Photography & ¡Presente! Media)

As many residents of Philadelphia are aware, there are several issues that need to be addressed in this upcoming mayoral race.  Public safety and violent crime are the dominant issues, along with education, public health, infrastructure, and community outreach and development. 

Oh has been open about his ideas to many of these topics.  Regarding safe injection sites, David Oh is against that procedure and unequivocally stated his many times throughout the primary campaign.  

Oh believes the police should have more of a presence on the streets of the city and should be properly trained and vetted to handle the issues of violent crime and drugs that ravage Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.  

He believes that under this administration, the police have been given an order to stand down, and he would promptly reverse that. Oh does state his belief that stop and frisk is unconstitutional and does not help reduce the issue of violent crime. 

Oh would also introduce an enforcement bill targeting illegal dumping and would specifically place detectives on cases regarding illegal dumping.  

Regarding community development, Oh introduced a bill that created the Committee on Global Opportunities and Creative and Innovative Economy.  

The committee has been handed the important task of attracting investment to the city and seeking out innovative ideas, industries, and technologies to make the city a more attractive destination for new residents.  

Education is a topic many residents follow closely.  Oh has introduced several bills to reform public education in Philadelphia in his time as a councilmember.  One of Oh’s proposals is to democratize the school board, reducing the number of members appointed by the mayor from the full nine to only four and placing the other five in separate zones where each board director can be directly elected by the public. The belief behind this strategy is to make the school board more accountable to the public.  

David Oh, elected to Philadelphia City Council in 2012, resigned from his at-large seat to enter the mayoral race. (Photo: Burkett Photography & ¡Presente! Media)

Oh’s Relationship with the Latino Community 

Oh proudly claims he “has always had a member of the Latino community working in my office.”  The reason for this is Oh holds the strong belief that it is important for elected officials to have contact with all the communities they were elected to represent.  Oh has said he has worked in the past with Ilia Garcia and Rocio Perez, two prominent members of the Philadelphia Latino community.  Oh also boasted that he shares the sentiment of the community that “Latin America thrives in Philadelphia.”  However, when he was asked a question about supporting a historical designation for a largely Hispanic district of the city, Oh was the only member to say he would not support that designation.  His explanation was that it would hinder development in that district, create more red tape, and massively slow down, or at worst prevent, the creation of new buildings.  Oh, would leave that designation up to the residents of that neighborhood.

“David Oh describes himself as a happy warrior who, likely to face defeat in November, understands his position as a candidate supported by a party that represents only 1 in 10 Philadelphians.”

He is also aware that if elected, his mandate will come largely from the Democrats that reside in this city, of which many members of the Latino community are also a part.  

If David Oh hopes to become the 100th Mayor of Philadelphia, it is important for him to continue to reach out to larger audiences.

This story is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. Learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters here.


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