Primary Election shows power still held by “Old Guard”
By J. Whyatt Mondesire
Since the outcomes at the top of the ticket were foregone conclusions, Primary Election 2012 received only token attention from much of the news media prior to last Tuesday. Most of Mitt Romney's GOP opposition had been diminished to token status and President Barack Obama was unopposed in the Democratic Primary. In fact, most of the press attention seemed focused on how local county election officials would spread the word about implementing the new voter identification law set to take effect for the Nov. 6 General Election.
In Philadelphia, the three City Commissioners opted to pass out a short flyer specifying what kinds of identification will be needed in the fall and what will happen when voters who lack acceptable documentation will be treated when they show up at their polling stations. It was called a "soft roll-out" of this new nuisance law and for most parts of the city few problems were reported.
However, there were plenty of head-to-head face-offs in races for state legislative positions from South Philadelphia through North and West Philadelphia, Germantown, Mt. Airy, Oak Lane and Kensington as well. All in all, there were at least a dozen contests pitting long-term incumbents against young upstarts or all-out battles to fill vacant seats left by State Representatives who had exited early to seek other elective offices. Only in Center City's 182nd District where Brian Sims apparently has beaten veteran legislator Babette Josephs, 71, by just over 200 votes, did a member of the "Old Guard" lose to one of the many new faces who ran in Tuesday's Primary Election.
Let's look at the other freshmen who took on members of the "Old Guard."
Veteran Democrat James Roebuck, a long time advocate for public education, was challenged by first-timer Fatima Muhammad, a forceful and articulate University of Pennsylvania graduate, who was backed by some of the lobbyists who favor public school vouchers. In the closing weeks of the campaign, a clearly shaken Roebuck reached out to the teachers' union and old friends like former Governor Ed Rendell for support. Additionally, Roebuck was forced to contend with a major opposition effort led by the new President of The Black Clergy of Philadelphia, Rev. Terrence Griffith, who was miffed at Roebuck for starting a legal challenge against the new pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, where he is a lay leader.
Roebuck's old friends came through. He scored an 800+ vote win by the time the polls closed at 8 PM.
Vanessa Lowery-Brown had little trouble trouncing her three opponents in her district which includes parts of Overbrook and Wynnefield.
Let's hope this was the last time we'll see another failed candidacy by Will (man of many names) Mega who again lost to Rep. Louise Williams-Bishop; this time though by a margin of 3-1.
Incumbent Rep. Rosita Youngblood used her superior fundraising skills to vanquish two new comers, Charisma Presley and Malik Boyd. Neither challengers gained a toe-hold in this Northwest district which is comprised of parts of at least five distinct Wards.
Three words sum up how Rep. Mark Cohen managed to beat back a surprisingly strong challenge by neophyte Numa St. Louis, whose aunt is a Democratic Ward Leader in that district. Those three words are: Donald "Ducky" Birts! A veteran political activist, sports hero and businessman, Birts used his considerable organizing skills to put together a reelection campaign that unified various factions in the district behind Cohen-- who had never before faced a strong opponent. St. Louis, a native of Haiti, was very appealing to the many recent immigrants who have relocated to that part of East Oak Lane.
In the contests for the three open seats in the 186th district in South Philly, 197th district in North Philadelphia and 201st district in Mt., Airy-Germantown, Jordan Harris, a protégé of State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, handily trounced his two opponents establishing himself as South Philly's newest political force to be reckoned with.
New Sheriff Jewell Williams worked tirelessly to elect his 27-year-old daughter, Jewel, to succeed him in the 197th district. But his attempt to erect a dynasty based on bloodlines angered the ward leaders in that corner of North Philadelphia causing them to coalesce around newcomer and winner J.P. Miranda, who was the handpicked candidate of State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, one of the Sheriff's fiercest rivals when he held that legislative seat through the previous decade.
One small footnote worthy of mentioning is the race in the special election to complete the rest of the senior Williams' term was won by the barely distinguishable leader of the 32nd Ward, Gary Williams. He crushed the once ultra-hyperbolic former North Philly legislator, T. Milton Street. Seems even six months of Milton's antics was more than many North Philadelphians were prepared to tolerate.
In Germantown's 201st District, which once was represented by political legend David P. Richardson, Jr., Tuesday's winner turned out to be Stephen Kinsey, a quiet and dignified professional who worked for incumbent John Myers. Kinsey's non-confrontational style seems to give everyone in the area a sense of being included in his decision making. If he maintains that style, Kinsey could end up writing the script for his own legend. Finally, in the race for Pennsylvania Attorney General, a position which has never been won by a Democrat, Kathleen Kane overcame the Democratic Party machine to beat former Congressman Patrick Murphy. However, since Kane did very little to reach out to African American voters during her Primary campaign it still remains uncertain if we can count on her for much interaction during the General Election. We'll be watching and will let you know if we notice any signs of maturity.
The SUN offer prayers for luck and success for both winners and losers from last Tuesday's Primary Election contests.
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