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David Oh vies to become Philadelphia's first Republican mayor since 1952

Election 2023: David Oh vies to become Philadelphia's first Republican mayor since 1952
Election 2023: David Oh vies to become Philadelphia's first Republican mayor since 1952 04:58

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- David Oh is vying to make history as the first Asian American mayor in Philadelphia and the first Republican since 1952 when voters decide who will be the city's 100th mayor next Tuesday.

Philadelphians will choose between Oh and Democratic mayoral nominee Cherelle Parker on Election Day. This election is shining a light on a number of issues currently facing city residents, most notably crime and public safety.

RELATED: Cherelle Parker wants to make Philadelphia "safest, cleanest, greenest big city" in US

"I have lived the issues since I was a child," Oh said, who still lives on the same block he grew up in Cobbs Creek. "I live in a neighborhood that has every problem that our city is facing."

Former Philadelphia City Council member David Oh is looking to become the city's first Republican mayor since 1952. CBS News Philadelphia

Outside, his name is up in lights while inside, his campaign headquarters is all about the fight to become the 100th mayor of the city of Philadelphia. When it comes to the city's problems, Oh said there are answers.

"I'm in disagreement with the current policies," Oh said, "so therefore, I offer an alternative."

Beginning with the gun violence and crime on city streets.

"When the city does not respond to violence as we have not been responding, the message we're sending is we don't care," Oh said. "We have to show people that we care, and we show them because we care about what happens to them, their lives, their health, their well-being, their children."

"So, we have to police," Oh added. "We have to show them that we have police officers in their community who are courteous, engaging, intelligent, who are backed with proper technology to be a force multiplier. So that we can do more than just sit in the car or patrol around a neighborhood."

Oh said Philadelphia doesn't have enough police officers.

"We're 1,400 officers short. We're going to have to hire 1,400 officers," Oh said, "but we will not do that unless we get a mayor that police officers and recruits want to work under. Right now, our police are resigning, they're retiring and we are unable to recruit because we have a reputation of being a city that you don't want to work for if you are a law enforcement officer. That has to change."

Change, which Oh believes starts with new leadership, including the selection of a new top cop.

"I'm looking for a proven person because we have such a moral problem with our police officers," Oh said. "They have to know the person who's going to be police commissioner as someone they admire, someone who is a person of success. Someone who is not going to cut corners. I want someone who has experience in Philadelphia, success in Philadelphia, someone who knows the difference between Kensington and Kingsessing."

Oh said his 11 years on Philadelphia City Council have prepared him for this moment, but how prepared is he to take on the open-air drug market lifestyle in Kensington, an area of the city that's going nowhere and fast?

"It's been made worse by very lenient policies and I think that's the problem," Oh said. "That policy of not enforcing the law has made Kensington the place to go. People from all over the region, if not beyond, are coming to Philadelphia, Kensington Avenue, in particular, because it's a free-for-all. My plan is this, from the time I get elected to the time that I'm sworn in, I'm telling people, what the changes are in Philadelphia."

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"We will enforce the law on Kensington Avenue," Oh added, "I'm just letting everybody know. You may not believe it, but when you begin to see it, I'm telling you don't come here. Because you will be arrested, you will not find the open-air drug dealing that you think exists here. There will be no more turning a blind eye to prostitution and illegal dumping and every law will be enforced."

Campaign workers have been working diligently to get the word out and they will continue to right up until Election Day. He said he's confident in beating the odds.

David Oh served on Philadelphia City Council. He resigned earlier this year to run for mayor and if he's elected, he would be the city's first Asian American mayor. CBS News Philadelphia

If elected, Oh would be the first Republican mayor in Philadelphia since Barney Samuel in 1952 and the first-ever Asian American.

"I think the race is up in the air," Oh said. "Some people, they say I can't win. Some people say I already won. It just depends on who you talk to. There are many issues that have to be addressed -- gun violence, affordable housing, over taxation in our poorest and challenged neighborhoods. Some problems seem insurmountable in this city. They are not. There just isn't the will to do it because you'd have to step on political toes, and that's something people don't do in this city, and it needs to be done."

Oh said he is opposed to the proposed Sixers arena, 76 Place, in Center City near Chinatown "at first glance." He said he wants the development group to produce a solid plan as well as see the results of community impact studies before any decision is made.

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