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Republicans have nominated Jim Hasher and Drew Murray for the at-large City Council special election

Anna Orso - Philly Inquirer

Both men acknowledged the city's heavily Democratic electorate, but said they think they have a chance to peel away Democratic votes: "We’re underdogs, but we’re going into this election to win it."

Philadelphia’s Republican Party has nominated Drew Murray, a longtime civic leader in Center City, and Jim Hasher, a real estate agent and bar owner, to fill two vacant City Council at-large seats that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Republican ward leaders voted unanimously Tuesday night to pick Murray and Hasher, who will face off against Democratic nominees Sharon Vaughn, a longtime City Council staffer, and Jimmy Harrity, a former aide to State Sen. Sharif Street. The winners will serve on Council through January 2024.

Murray and Hasher are facing an uphill battle, given the city’s heavily Democratic electorate. Each said they intend to run for a full term whether they win or lose in November.

All 17 seats on Council will be up for election next year, and of seven at-large seats, two are effectively reserved for non-Democrats. Republicans had held both for more than 70 years until 2019, when Kendra Brooks of the progressive Working Families Party won one of the seats.

There are currently two Republicans on Council: at-large Councilmember David Oh and Councilmember Brian J. O’Neill, who has long represented the city’s 10th District, which includes swaths of Northeast Philadelphia. Oh is said to be considering a run for mayor, and under city law, he’d be required to resign his Council seat to run.

Murray, 50, the former president of the Logan Square Civic Association, ran for Council in the Republican primary unsuccessfully in 2019. He knew shortly after that he wanted to try again.

He declared his candidacy for Council this spring, setting himself up for more than a year of campaigning. By the time there were two vacancies on Council — both created by members who resigned to explore mayoral runs — he’d already been fund-raising and had campaign literature printed.

Murray describes himself as a moderate Republican, and was a Democrat for most of his life. He switched parties in 2018 after, he said, the Democratic Party “became a party that wasn’t for the middle class.” He’s campaigning on improving quality of life in the city, which he said is an area where a Republican can peel away votes from disaffected Democrats.

“We’re underdogs, but we’re going into this election to win it,” Murray said. “People are looking at how the city is run, and there are people on both sides who are extremely frustrated.”

Murray lives in Logan Square with his wife and two daughters. During the day, he’s a regional sales manager at a Conshohocken-based firm that sells high-density storage systems.

The run will also be Hasher’s second, albeit over a longer time span. Hasher, 59, ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican in 1994. Since then, he’s raised five children, served as a ward leader, and worked as both a real estate agent and the owner of Jimmy’s Timeout Sports Pub in the city’s Mayfair section.

Hasher, who described himself as a moderate, said he’ll campaign on addressing quality-of-life issues and the city’s opioid epidemic, which he sees as driving much of the record-breaking rate of gun violence seen in the city over the past two years.

He said Council could use more small-business owners and people with deep roots in their communities. Hasher was born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, and today lives in Torresdale, where he runs the local Boys Club.

“I want to kind of rip the Republican label off of this thing, and say, ‘This is why I’m running,’” he said. “I didn’t get into this because I want to go through the motions. I did it because I have a good, strong message, and I am living this. If things don’t work out, I’ll still be there the day after the election.”

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