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Philadelphia mayoral race: Democratic primary is a toss-up, experts say

Primary election has big implications for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania
Primary election has big implications for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania 02:36

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's the last-minute push to the polls.

The Democratic candidates for mayor in Philadelphia made their final pitch before voters cast their ballots Tuesday.

Only one Democrat in a crowded field will move on to face Republican David Oh in the general election. 

Polls suggest there are still a lot of undecided Democratic voters out there. It's led to a last-minute push by the top candidates to reach as many voters as they can.  

"Integrity, leadership, just someone that understands the community," Samirah said.  

Samirah, of West Philly, knows what she wants to see in Philly's next mayor – she's just not sure who she's choosing. 

It's undecided voters like her who could be the key to victory, and one issue stood out with voters we talked with.  

"The violence, yeah, the violence is horrendous. It is very sad what is happening in our city," Samirah said.   

Philadelphia's Democratic primary is a toss-up, experts say 01:37

"I would like to see the streets get cleaned up, both physically and figuratively, with crime and the physical area get cleaned up," Elijah Groomes said.   

With polls indicating up to 20% of Democratic voters are still undecided, the candidates are running hard.

Jeff Brown met voters at the Ogontz Lane bus loop Monday morning. 

Over the weekend – Allan Domb visited the Kensington Derby event. 

Helen Gym held a get-out-the-vote canvass at Pretzel Park. 

Cherelle Parker knocked on doors in West Philly, and Rebecca Rhynhart visited several neighborhoods, including Manayunk. 

Experts say the candidates will need every vote they can get. 

"I think we could be looking at a few thousand votes being the deciding factor," Lauren Cristella said.   

Cristella, of The Committee of Seventy, a nonprofit, says she can't remember the last time a mayoral race was this much of a toss-up. 

But aside from winning over hearts, Cristella says the candidates will need to get their people out to the polls. 

"I think we are still seeing some consistencies about different groups, by identity, demographic, that are leaning much more heavily for one candidate over another," Cristella said. "So depending on who can motivate their voting block to turn out, that will be the whole ball game."

The timing of when we might know a winner is also a bit up in the air. 

With the race expected to be so close, Cristella says we could have to wait on provisional and mail-in ballots. 

That could mean counting continues into Wednesday and even beyond.

On the eve of the election, about 2,500 out of more than 90,000 mail-in and absentee ballots in Philadelphia have been flagged.

Although that may be a small percentage, every vote could make a big difference.

Deputy commissioner for the Philadelphia Board of Elections Nick Custodio says with no incumbent on the ticket for the first time in eight years, expect a higher voter turnout.  

"Generally speaking the mayoral primary election is one of the more busy elections here in Philadelphia," Custodio said. 

Meanwhile, in Delaware County, a special election will be held to fill representative Mike Zabel's seat. The 163rd District could sway the balance of power in Harrisburg with Democrats currently holding a one-seat majority in the state house. 

All polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and all mail-in ballots must be submitted by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

2023 Philadelphia Democratic Mayoral Forum 58:15
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