By Denise Clay
ABOVE PHOTO: Councilwoman Marian Tasco (c) takes center stage celebrating her win at Relish with Rep. Dwight Evans (l) and Rep. Cherelle Parker.
(Photo by Robert Mendelsohn)
Maybe it’s time for Pennsylvania to consider the whole early voting/voting by mail thing.
Why do I say that? Because that might be the only way to get folks to vote in primaries or any other election in Philadelphia for that matter, when it rains.
Only 20 percent of Philadelphians bothered to come out to the polls for Tuesday’s primary election. Sure we had primaries for the Mayor’s office, several City Council offices, the Sheriff’s office and even the City Commissioners, you know, the folks that oversee the city’s voting process, were up for election.
But at 10:30 on Tuesday morning, my Significant Other and I were numbers eight and seven respectively at our polling place in South Philadelphia.
Now I understand that it’s annoying to have to go out in the rain to do anything. I got stuck in a rainstorm on Wednesday and my denim jacket is still drying out after the torrential downpour.
However, a little rain shouldn’t keep you from exercising a right that people endured having Molotov cocktails thrown at them for you to get.
But while the turnout for Tuesday’s elections was depressing at best and disheartening at worst, it did end up yielding results that can be best described as interesting.
Let’s start with the result that was really no surprise to anyone.
Mayor Michael Nutter handily won the Democratic Mayoral Primary over his opponent, former state legislator T. Milton Street.
Nutter didn’t really campaign all that much until we got closer to the primary itself. While he lost the endorsements of District Council 33 (working without a contract for four years tends to make people angry) and the Firefighters Union (fighting them on their contract makes folks kinda peeved, too), the vote wasn’t even close.
In his acceptance speech, Nutter pledged to create a “New Philadelphia” where the streets are even safer, jobs are available and the educational system benefits everyone, not just the lucky few.
“We need to focus our efforts on education,” he said. “There is nothing that has more of an impact than investing in a quality education for our kids.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Mayor Nutter makes a very good point about this stuff. Education, especially early childhood education is vital to making sure that a kid has everything he or she needs to be a functioning adult.
But when you consider the fact that Gov. Tom Corbett just gutted the education budget like one would a dead fish, which included taking all of the early childhood education money out that Gov. Ed Rendell put in and giving it to his Marcellus Shale buddies, the question becomes “How ya gonna pull that off?
Nutter admitted that right now the details are a little sketchy.
“At the moment, we don’t know how we’re going to solve these problems,” he said. “But we need to focus on them.”
Nutter won with 75 percent of the vote. Street received 25 percent.
That breakdown serves not only as a beacon to some that Nutter might be vulnerable, (something that has led former Mayor John Street to consider throwing his hat into the ring as an independent in November), but also as a bit of census information.
You see, according to a Judge of Elections that I interviewed in Germantown on Tuesday, this number serves to “tell you how many knuckleheads you have in your neighborhood.”
Well, now what I’ve always suspected is now official.
Twenty-five percent of Philadelphia’s population is, indeed, made up of knuckleheads, although after listening to sports talk radio in this town for the last 11 or so years, I thought that the percentage was actually much higher.
While the mayor’s race was no big surprise, there were a few races that kind of stood out.
Earlier in this Election Season, I was asked what I saw regarding the May primary. I said that this primary would tell you who was more powerful: Local 98 leader John Dougherty or State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. Both had standard bearers running.
So far, Doc appears to have the lead. The candidates he supported, Councilman Bill Green, Sixth District Council candidate Bobby Henon, and First District Council candidate Mark Squilla rolled on to victory.
Meanwhile, the biggest name in Williams’ group of candidates, State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, is a mere 79 votes ahead of Barbara Capozzi for the Second District seat. My guess is that Capozzi, a neighbor of outgoing Councilwoman (and Council President) Anna Verna, is already on the phone to election lawyer extraordinaire Greg Harvey preparing to mount a challenge, something that Johnson refused to discuss when asked about it Tuesday.
While Johnson’s chances were probably dinged by the 1,000-plus votes that community activist Tracy Gordon got, my sources say that folks in Johnson’s camp have someone else to blame in mind, namely former Second District candidate Damon Roberts. Roberts, an attorney and community activist that had trouble catching on and raising money for his campaign, dropped out of the race two weeks before the primary.
He threw his support to Johnson.
But he couldn’t get his name off of the ballot because he had waited too late to drop out.
Roberts got 319 votes.
(On a totally unrelated note, whenever I hear Bobby Henon’s name, I want to put the phrase “the Brain” in there. I’m sure that Henon has never been in a World Wide Wrestling ring, but I can’t help it!)
But the Second District race isn’t the only race that may bring out the election lawyers.
The battle to see which Republican will run against Mayor Nutter (and possibly former Mayor Street) is still too close to call. Karen Brown, a former Democratic committeewoman who was recruited by the Republican City Committee to be their standard bearer and her opponent John Featherman, representing a so-called “rogue” Republican faction that is more closely tied to the state’s Republican party, are running neck and neck at the moment.
The demise of two incumbents over the Deferred Retirement Option Program also stood out for me.
First of all, we will no longer have a city councilman who looks like Moe from The Three Stooges and goes by the last name of Rizzo come November.
Frank Rizzo Jr. came in seventh in a group of Republican City Council at Large candidates on Tuesday. David Oh, a man who would be talking about his reelection to City Council if the Republicans in this town had an ounce of sense, came in first in a group that included former mayoral candidate Al Taubenberger, former District Attorney candidate Michael Untemeyer, and State Rep. Denny O’Brien. Joseph McColgan rounds out the GOP top five that will be vying for the two minority council seats available come November.
Rizzo was hit by the Angry Sword of DROP-oclese, but he wasn’t the only one. City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione was felled by it as well, losing her chance to run for a 10th term of office to Stephanie Singer (who basically tailored her campaign toward beating Tartaglione) and Anthony Clark, a longtime commisioner.
Meanwhile on the Republican side, newcomer Al Schmitt and incumbent Joseph Duda will be vying for the lone Commissioners seat.
But while Rizzo and Tartaglione got hit by the Angry Sword of DROP-oclese, it didn’t even draw blood from City Councilwoman Marian Tasco. Tasco handily won re-election in the Ninth District, setting up a possible run for City Council President. Once Tasco won a court challenge that allowed her to take her Deferred Option Retirement Program money, retire for a day, and return to work if she wins in November, her Mighty 50th Ward colleagues went right to work in securing her spot.
In fact, women are going to be well represented in the next City Council.
Councilwomen Maria Quinones Sanchez, and Blondell Reynolds Brown were also victorious with Reynolds Brown topping all Democratic City Council At-Large candidates with 13.9 percent of the vote.
In all likelihood, Cindy Bass will be joining the Ladies of City Council after outwitting, outplaying and outlasting seven other opponents in the game of “Eighth District Survivor” created when Donna Reed Miller vacated her seat. Because of how unpopular Reed Miller was in her district, Verna Tyler, a community activist who was one of Bass’s opponents shouldn’t have been surprised that getting Reed Miller’s endorsement didn’t help her much because much of the Eighth District has been trying o get rid of the outgoing councilwoman for years. That’s a star Tyler shouldn’t have hitched her wagon to.
Bass should be prepared to enter Thunderdome like Mad Max every four years to keep this seat should she win in November. If history is any indication, she’s never going to face fewer than three challengers.
But also if history is any indicator, she’ll be able to continue to go back to City Council with 27 percent of the vote. It certainly worked for Reed Miller.
As I said in the beginning of this piece, all of this happened with a 20 percent voter turnout. I can imagine what would have happened if more people had stepped up to the electoral plate. Would Street vs. Nutter had been a real blowout? Would we know who the Second District Councilperson is?
Maybe a little star power might help. While I was hanging out in the First District, I went to a polling place where I wound up meeting one of the stars of one of my favorite guilty pleasure television shows.
It was Tracy, a Philadelphia Parking Authority impound lot attendant from the show “Parking Wars.”
Hmmm…Maybe I should recruit the “Mob Wives” to help get the vote out in November. Renee in particular might be very effective….