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Philadelphia mayoral race: Helen Gym wants to bring big changes to the city

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  This week, CBS Philadelphia will be talking with supporters of the top five candidates in the Democratic field in the Philly mayoral race to find out why they think their pick is the right choice. 

On Monday, we started with Helen Gym. 

"The city needs a change, and I think she's the change we need," Hunt said.   

Hunt has known she's backing Gym for mayor since before the former city council member announced a run.   

"She came and talked to us and was like this is what I'm thinking about. and I was like yes! I'll support you, no question," Hunt said.

Gym is one of several former city council members squaring off in the Democratic primary. She's a former teacher – and calls herself a longtime community organizer in the city – before landing at City Hall in 2016 where she's been an at-large council member until last year.  

Gym has called for a state of emergency on gun violence and championed an expansion of mental health services. But at the center of her campaign is what she calls her "Green New Deal" for schools.   

"That's why I'm talking about a big investment in modernizing new schools inside and out. I'm the only candidate on this stage with a real plan to actually see that through over the next 10 years," Gym said.   


Hunt – a former school cafeteria worker and president of Unite Here Local 634 – says she met Gym at school reform commission meetings. She says it's been Gym's support for all school staff – not just teachers – that has resonated with her.  

"They always talk about teachers, like teachers are the only position in a school district. No, we have food service workers, too. But she never forgot about those," Hunt said.   

Gym has lined up dozens of endorsements, including from Hunt's union. She has the backing of progressive U.S Reps. like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley – and is slated to campaign with Bernie Sanders this weekend. But her history as a progressive has led to questions – whether Gym can serve as a leader for all Philadelphians. Hunt isn't concerned.  

"When you say progressive, that means you're thinking different than every other politician. And that's not a bad thing," Hunt said. 

Polling from the Committee of Seventy shows 20% of voters are still undecided in the Democratic race. 

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