South Philly residents were invited to Grassroots Advocacy for South Philadelphia’s (GRASP) first At-Large Bingo event at Bok Wednesday night for a chance to meet with various candidates running for City Council at-large seats.
Republicans, Democrats and independents all participated in the event. The Democratic candidates were Fareed Abdullah, Deja Alvarez, Ethelind Baylor, Allan Domb, Justin DiBerardinis, Beth Finn, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Adrian Rivera-Reyes, Eryn Santamoor, Isaiah Thomas and Fernando Trevino. Republican candidates who participated were Irina Goldstein, Drew Murray, David Oh, Steven Vaughn-Lewis and Matt Wolfe. Joe Cox and Andrew McGinley were the lone independents to participate.
Unlike most events with political candidates in which candidates are given a stage or a platform to speak to the masses, GRASP’s At-Large Bingo was geared toward allowing residents to have one-on-one discussions with candidates. Participants were given a bingo card with six squares and were encouraged to talk to candidates about issues they care about, whether it’s education, the environment, trash or the opioid crisis. After they spoke with a candidate, the candidate, who has a dobber, marked one of the squares on the participant’s card. Participants who get five of their six boxes dobbed by the candidates were entered to win door prizes, such as gift cards to Adobe Cafe and yoga workshops at Bok.
“We wanted to make sure we had South Philadelphians meeting the at-large candidates because it’s such a wide and varied field. We also know that, with this many candidates, stump speeches weren’t realistic, so we decided to do more of a cocktail hour networking event and tie it to a bingo card,” said Steph Davis, a member of GRASP’s steering committee. Davis thinks it’s important to get constituents meeting with candidates one-on-one.
“I think there’s nothing like being face to face with somebody,” she said. “I think it really brings them down to earth, you can see if they share your values more easily if you shake their hand and talk to them one on one, even if it’s only for two or three minutes and just get a sense for how they’ll be in office.”
A fellow member of GRASP’s steering committee, Dana Pavlichko, echoed Davis’s sentiment.
“If you have six candidates’ website bios, there’s not a one to one on an issue you might care about,” she said. “There’s not a one to one on getting a feel for whether they’re actually going to answer your questions or whether they’re going to skirt around issues, so I think talking to [candidates], you learn so much more to be able to just ask candidates directly about the things you care about.”
James Gitto, a politically involved Philadelphia resident who’s working on behalf of Lauren Vidas’s campaign for the 2nd Councilmanic District, spoke highly of the event.
“There are so many candidates running for the at-large seats, so it’s really hard to get a good grasp on who’s who,” he said. “I feel this will be a fun way of kind of like hearing from them in a non-professional way.”