Worst cyberattack in decades hit Philadelphia Inquirer ahead of Democratic mayoral primary
Councilwoman Helen Gym attends the HIAS# RefugeesWelcome Thanksgiving at the Old Pine Community Center Nov. 22, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. - Bill McCay/Getty Images North America/TNS

Tuesday, May 16 marks an important event in Philadelphia politics: the city's Democratic mayoral primary. Because Philly is overwhelmingly Democratic, the winner will likely become the city's next mayor.

Democratic strategists have been paying close attention to the Philadelphia Inquirer's primary coverage. But because of a cyberattack that has been reported to the FBI, the Philadelphia Inquirer's operations have been interrupted at the worst possible time.

The Guardian's Nina Lakhani, in an article published on May 15, reports that the Inquirer is "scrambling to restore its systems and resume normal operations" following the "worst disruption" it has suffered "in decades."

"The Inquirer's offices are closed through at least Tuesday, and the company is looking for co-working space to serve as a makeshift newsroom for Election Night," Lakhani reports. "It is unclear when normal editorial services will be restored."

Philadelphia's Democratic mayoral primary has national implications, as Pennsylvania will be a must-win state for President Joe Biden in 2024. And the Democratic mayoral nominee could play an important role in get-out-the-vote efforts in the state's most densely populated city.

The Democratic mayoral candidates are a mixture of progressives, liberals and centrists. Progressive Helen Gym, a former city councilwoman, has been endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) — both of whom visited Philly to campaign for her on May 14.

Meanwhile, the more moderate Rebecca Rhynhart has been endorsed by centrist Democrats who include Ed Rendell — former Pennsylvania governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman — as well as former Philadelphia Mayor Mike Nutter, who worked on Michael Bloomberg's 2020 presidential campaign.

The Washington Post's Amber Phillips notes that Philly has never had a female mayor, but that could change if the Democratic nominee is Rhynhart, Gym or former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker.

The Inquirer's print edition was published on May 15, although without any classified ads.

Lakhani reports, "Few details about the attack on the Inquirer have been released to staff members or readers. It is unclear whether any personal data has been exposed, exactly which systems had been breached, or who was behind the attack and what motivations they had."