OUT & ABOUT: David Oh’s Unusual Race

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100 PEOPLE came out to support David Oh at an exploratory fundraiser at his Zarwin Baum law office, among them, from left, Teamsters' Dan Grace, Ed Slater and Dan Bosak; Oh; and consultant Tom McCourt.

BY DENISE CLAY/ Seated on a couch in what is normally the waiting room at the law offices of Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer and Toddy, PC with her friends Mavis Pringle and Yvonne Newkirk, Charlene Fullard of West Philadelphia was having a libation and engaging in chit-chat.

Some of the chit-chat focused on the reason the ladies were in this law firm after hours, having drinks and noshing on food from the Marathon Grille downstairs. They were discussing the electoral prospects of their Republican Ward Leader David Oh.

If Oh’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he came within 122 votes of beating City Councilman Jack Kelly for his seat four years ago. It was his second run for one of the two Council at-Large seats that the City Charter mandates for the minority party.

He’s considering throwing his hat in the ring a third time in 2011, so he invited a few of his closest (and most able to write a check) friends to an exploratory fundraiser on Friday night to test the waters.

Pringle, Newkirk and Fullard were among those encouraging Oh to dive in. “The third time is the charm,” Fullard said.

Also encouraging were the members of his law firm. “The 53 members of our law firm are behind him,” said Theodore Schaer, a partner in Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer & Toddy. “We want you to go out and talk about David. With your help and support, David is going to be the next City Council at Large Member.”

Even a couple of high-profile Democrats, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, promised Oh their support at Friday’s get together.

“I’m looking forward to next year’s Freshman Class in City Council and it would be refreshing for David to be a part of it,” Quiñones Sánchez said. “He thinks outside of the box and he has a lot of good bipartisan ideas that will be good for Philadelphia.”

“David Oh deserves to go to City Council and I’m proud to endorse him tonight,” Williams said. “He is a man of service; a hard-working and smart person to tries to do what is right for people.”

Folks came from as far away as California to sing Oh’s praises and encourage him to run for City Council.

But despite this outpouring, Oh is taking baby steps toward another run. He knows that he wants to take another shot at becoming a Councilman, but he’s assuming nothing, he says.

“I want to run,” he said. “But I don’t assume the support I received the last time that I ran will be there. I want to make sure I have the support, the money and the time from others before I let this plane take off. I want to check out all of the systems.”

But while his pragmatic, moderate view of what’s best for the city hasn’t changed, Oh is running for City Council as a Republican in the age of the Tea Party. What of the polarized electorate? Can a moderate Asian Republican from West Philadelphia win the Republican nomination with two high-profile Democrats in his corner in the age of the Tea Party?

He can if Republicans think “results” instead of “dogma,” he says.

“Just because someone says they are a Republican doesn’t mean they have Republican ideas,” Oh said. “Scapegoating and polarization don’t help anyone. My campaign is about all of us working together. If you’re looking for someone who is going to take a purity test, I’m not your guy. But if you’re looking for someone who is going to get results, that’s what I’m about.”

COUNCILWOMAN Maria Quinones Sanchez hailed David Oh, saying, “He thinks outside of the box and has a lot of good bipartisan ideas.”

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