Philadelphia is about to make history as two Black women are set to take on embattled Sheriff Jewell Williams in the Democratic primary May 21.
Rochelle Bilal and Malika Rahman, both highly-respected former law enforcement vets in the state, are challenging Williams as he seeks a third term. His second term has been clouded by sexual harassment allegations by at least three women and settlements dating back to 2012, when the Democratic caucus paid out $30,000 to settle a claim.
The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office settled with one of the victims back in January for $127,500. A lawyer for Williams said in a statement that the pay-out did “not mean the allegations are true,” NBC Philadelphia reports. The outlet also noted that Williams lost a key endorsement Wednesday when top City Democratic Party officials rescinded their support.
As Williams continues to faces criticism from colleagues and women’s advocates groups, including the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women, residents could elect a female sheriff for the first time in city history. Also running for sheriff is the Rev. Larry King Sr., a self proclaimed “preacher, pastor and public servant.”
There is no Republican challenger, reports NBC Philadelphia.
“That’s what elections are for – to allow voters to judge not just the accomplishments and the track record and the vision of the candidate, but that person’s character,” said David Thornburgh, CEO and president of Philadelphia’s Committee of 70.
Mayor Jim Kenney that Williams should resign from office amid the sexual harassment controversy, which could play a part in the upcoming May election, the television news outlet reports.
Bilal is a 27-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department and also serves as secretary of the Philadelphia NAACP chapter. Her campaign website highlights her belief that “elected officials are responsible to each and every citizen and she is deliberate in making sure that everyone has a voice at the table.”
Rahman, meanwhile, a former detective and correctional officer in the Philadelphia Prison system, said during an interview with NBC10, that she was inspiration to run for sheriff by the women who ran for office last year.
“It was more of a need and necessity for the people,” she said. “As women, [Bilal and I] are both concerned for the need for change- providing adequate services the public can feel comfortable with and trust in.”
Bilal also NBC10 that she wants “to be the change agent.”
Adding, “I want to see [the sheriff’s office] represent the people of this city.”