What Ticked Right And Wrong In 3 House Races

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BY JOHN KROMER & DAVID LYNN/ Three of the incumbent State Representatives who ran for re-election in the 2012 primary were not particularly dynamic. Their challengers were well-spoken, attractive, and well-financed. The results: one challenger won, another came close and is well positioned for a 2014 rematch, and a third lost badly.

BRIAN SIMS ... toppled an incumbent.

Here’s how it happened. In the 182nd District, which represents Rittenhouse Square, Logan Square, Southwest Center City and Queen Village, Brian Sims edged out incumbent State Rep. Babette Josephs 3,661 votes­ to 3,428 votes.

The 8th Ward’s 30 divisions, which occupy most of Center City west of Broad, are going to generate more than half the votes in any 182nd Dist. election. The 8th is incumbent State Representative Babette Josephs’ home ward, and 8th Ward voters have given her big margins over challengers in past elections. In the 2010 primary, Josephs won 3,116 votes in the 8th Ward, giving her a major edge over challenger Gregg Kravitz and contributing to her 5,683-3,677 victory over Kravitz.

The 2012 primary was different. This time, Josephs’ 8th Ward total was only 1,916 votes, a result nearly equaled by challenger Sims, who won 1,803 votes in the ward. How did Sims differ from the other candidates who had gone up against Josephs during the past decade? According to committeepersopns and volunteers outside 8th Ward polling places, Sims had a record of community service, was not a polarizing figure, and had raised enough money to mount a credible challenge.

And what was wrong with Josephs? To some, she conveyed a sense of a lifetime entitlement to her House seat; she didn’t work hard enough; she hadn’t accomplished much; and the “men with breasts” comment (Josephs’ characterization of GOP women who supported ultrasound for women seeking abortions) was offensive.

In addition to his strong showing in the 8th Ward, Brian Sims performed well in the 5th Ward (10 divisions in Center City east of Broad) where he outpolled Josephs 640-385 and in the 30th Ward (five divisions south of Lombard, west of Broad) where he earned 452 votes, compared with Josephs’ 265. Josephs’ won the 36th Wards’ seven divisions, 355-196, but her margin in this relatively small area was not sufficient to offset losses elsewhere in the district.

In terms of money, Sims4PAPAC, the campaign finance committee for Brian Sims, began raising money early.  The first report that appears for his committee online is 2011 cycle 7. Although the committee raised only $500 from PACs, the committee did end up raising a total of $66,529.60 near the end of the year. In the first two cycles of 2012, Sims raised another $83,080, with only $250 coming from PACs. It should be noted that Sims received $14,550 as in-kind contributions from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund in Washington, D.C. for such items as research and messaging research. Sims appears to have spent $28,842.32 on direct mail and $516.78 on food for volunteers. He also appeared to have a paid staff which cost him $23,060.47 in payroll and payroll expense.

By contrast, Josephs raised only $12,300 in 2011, and $50,625 in 2012 cycle 1 and 2012 cycle 2. In stark contrast to Sims, $35,050 of Joseph’s money came from PACs. Her committee had no expenses in 2011, indicating she did not begin gearing up for the primary until after the first of the year. She appears to have had a campaign staff, and paid $17,000 on items such as staff services in 2012 cycle 1 and 2012 cycle 2. In addition, she paid only $7,174.52 for mailers and a bulk mail permit — approximately 1/4 of what the Sims campaign spent on direct mail. Finally, in her expenses, we see no volunteer expenses to speak of in her reports.

It is clear Josephs was depending on the Democratic party to carry her through the primary. In this case, it did not work, and she was beaten by a margin large enough so as not to trigger a recount.

JIM ROEBUCK ... survived an all-out assault.

In the 188th Dist., representing Spruce Hill, Cedar Park and Southwest Philadelphia, State Rep. James R. Roebuck beat back a strong challenge by Fatimah Loren Muhammad, 3,888 votes to 3,081 votes.

A billboard displaying the well-known Obama “Hope” image, accompanied  by an image of State Representative candidate Fatimah Muhammad in a similar style, can be seen by voters a half-block away from the 46th Ward, 19th Division polling place, the Garden Court Plaza, located at 47th & Pine. Muhammad posters are taped to telephone poles lining the approach to the polling site. Outside the entrance to Garden Court, Muhammad campaign workers are distributing sample ballots and flyers, including a Liberty City flyer urging voters to “Be part of history by voting for … FATIMAH MUHAMMAD —helping to elect the first out members of the LGBT community to the state legislature in the history of Pennsylvania!”

In 2010, Roebuck won 46/19 with 220 of 223 votes cast in this division (he was virtually unchallenged in that race). This time, a total of 235 votes were cast in 46/19, with 182 for Roebuck and 53 for Muhammad. In all, Muhammad won 10 of the 23 divisions in the 46th, Roebuck’s home ward. Although she lost the 46th Ward  decisively, Muhammad won the 60th Ward’s nine divisions (south of Market between 45th and 52nd), 682-443, and nearly matched Roebuck’s results in the 51st Ward’s 11 divisions (south of Baltimore Avenue between 50th and 58th Streets).

Roebuck’s victory was made possible in large part by substantial margins in the University City-oriented divisions between 45th and 49th Streets, where he outpolled Muhammad by as much as 5 to 1, as well as by his 522-277 victory over Muhammad in the 27th Ward’s 18th division (east of 45th , south of Market).

According to a Roebuck supporter outside the polling place for the 46th Ward’s 1st Division, located opposite the St. Francis de Sales Catholic church, many of the parents picking up their children at the de Sales parochial school that afternoon were Roebuck supporters — this election was about a lot more than vouchers (a barrage of negative advertising by the Muhammad campaign during the weeks leading up to the election had portrayed Roebuck as a staunch opponent of school choice). Roebuck won the 1st division decisively, with 141 votes to Muhammad’s 34 (in 2010, Roebuck had received 155 votes in the 1st Division).

Muhammad raised enough money to mount a credible campaign against Roebuck. In 2012 cycle 1 and cycle 2 alone she raised $75,195.03 — $49,400.00, or almost 2/3, through PAC contributions. Roebuck, on the other hand, began 2012 with $42,106.92 in the bank, and raised an additional $21,841.83 in 2012 cycle 1 and cycle 2 to give him a total of $63,948.75 available to spend. Of this amount, $23,050.00 came from PACs, and $13,950 came from individual contributions.

Of the PAC contributions, $500 came from APPAC (Associates of PA PAC) which appears to have received large sums of money from well-heeled donors over the past few years, including charter-school proponent Vahan H. Gureghian. Additional education-related contributions came from Faculty Federation of the Community College of Philadelphia ($500) and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Committee to Support Public Education ($5,000).

During 2011 and 2012, Roebuck’s campaign had only $48,963.51 in expenses. $6,444 of this amount was in public-relations work. There were no staff, payroll, or volunteer expenses in 2011 or 2012, indicating that Roebuck was intent on using the well-established Democratic machine in West Philadelphia to turn out votes for him. On the other hand, Muhammad spent $25,259.90 on canvassers and canvassing related expenditures. She also spent $13,118.77 on wages for staff in 2012.

Two takeaways from the candidacy of Muhammad and certain other candidates in the 2010 primary:

The SuperPACs have now entered the city limits. The pro-voucher Students First PAC that funded a major portion of State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams’ 2010 statewide campaign for Governor was a major contributor to Muhammad’s campaign, and this PAC and others like it have the potential to become a force in local Philadelphia politics. For a SuperPAC, a political campaign represents a short-tem investment that can produce long-term benefits if the candidate wins. Will other SuperPACs — both right- and left-leaning — get involved in Philadelphia politics in the future? With a growing population, a revitalized downtown, and newly-trendy neighborhoods emerging despite the setbacks of the recession, Philadelphia could be viewed as a promising location for political investment by outsiders — with serious consequences for the city.

2. Williams has made major advances in building a political infrastructure — one that includes challengers such as Muhammad and other Students First-supported candidates, as well as recently elected officials such as 2nd Dist. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson — and this infrastructure is likely to grow stronger as plans for the 2015 mayoral election take shape. Mayor Michael Nutter never had a grassroots political infrastructure, with consistently loyal supporters capable of influencing political outcomes in large areas of the city, and neither did his three predecessors (although Wilson Goode’s election as Mayor owed much to the political infrastructure skillfully managed by then-Congressman William Gray).

MICHELLE BROWNLEE ... walked home against 3 challengers.

In the 195th Dist., representing Fairmount, Brewerytown, Lower North Philadelphia West, Mantua and Powelton Village, Michelle F. Brownlee trounced Andrew Kleeman 4,355 to 2532 votes. Challenger Kleeman spent a lot of his own funds to support his candidacy for State Representative in the 195th Dist., just as Howard Treatman had done in his 2011 campaign for the 8th District City Council seat. Andrew Kleeman lost the 2012 primary election because his campaign was not enough like that of Bloomberg and too much like that of Treatman: a well-financed effort by a candidate who was not well known throughout the voting area and not deemed as reliable as his main opponent.

During the slow mid-afternoon hours, Councilman at Large and 15th Ward Leader Bill Greenlee stood outside the 1st and 2nd Division polling place at Trinity Baptist Church near 27th & Poplar, in the heart of the “Art Museum” area. During the course of one five-minute interval, he approached three voters who were about to enter the polling place and encouraged them to vote for incumbent candidate Michelle Brownlee. One was an older white woman who appeared to be a longtime resident of the area; another was a young man with the “hipster” appearance of some of the newer residents of the area (casual attire, facial hair); a third was a young woman of color (longish hair, piercing), who could have been a newcomer or a second-generation family member. Each of these voters paused, listened to Brownlee, took the sample ballot he offered, and walked into the polling place past a Kleeman Election Day worker.

Greenlee was promoting Brownlee (an interesting last-name similarity!) as a known quantity, as a candidate that could deliver reliable service to the community. She brought the new supermarket to the neighborhood. She created a job bank (What’s a job bank? one voter asked. Answer: her office has information about job openings).

For many voters in a district such as the 195th, a candidate who is believed to be reliable and capable of delivering services is likely to be judged superior to a candidate who may be intelligent, creative, and professionally successful but who is not known in the district’s neighborhoods.

The primary-election results support this conclusion. Despite organizing a much better financed campaign, Kleeman won about the same number of votes as Brownlee’s 2010 challenger, Anthony P. Ingargiola (Ingargiola’s vote total was 2,274, compared with Brownlee’s 2010 total of 4,459). Like Ingargiola, Kleeman made a strong showing in the 15th Ward (Spring Garden to Poplar west of Broad), where he defeated Brownlee, 1,262 to 931. But Brownlee outpolled Kleeman decisively everywhere else, by roughly 2-to-1 and 3-to-1 margins: 1,217-326 and 1,140-453 in the 29th and 32nd wards, respectively (north of Poplar to north of Diamond),  798-370 in the 24th Ward (Mantua and Powelton), and 269-121 in the 6th (six divisions west of 40th and Haverford).

Two African American candidates other than Brownlee participated in the election, but these two candidates together won only 648 votes, about 8% of the overall vote total — so any expectation that these candidates would split the African American votes to Kleeman’s advantage proved to be unfounded.

With increasing enrollment at Drexel and an influx of younger, white population north from Powelton Village into Mantua, Kleeman might have anticipated achieving strong results in the 24th Ward (Schuylkill River to 40th Street, north of Market). However, this area did not produce a significant number of votes for Kleeman. Of the five divisions that are located within the Drexel-influenced triangle bounded by the Schuylkill River, Lancaster Avenue, and Spring Garden Street, three are low-turnout divisions (which produced a combined total of 17 votes for Kleeman and Brownlee), and the other two provided Kleeman with very small margins (33-23 and 46-32).

In the 195th Dist., Kleeman needed a benefit that Fatima Muhammad had from the start in her campaign in the 188th. Although Muhammad may not have been well known to many voters in the 188th Dist. at the beginning of her campaign, Sen. Williams’ political allies (who delivered large numbers of votes for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign in the 46th Ward and elsewhere in the 188th Dist.) provided Muhammad with a support network that nurtured her candidacy and brought out the votes. Kleeman’s candidacy did not start out with a comparable network in the 195th Dist., and Kleeman did not have the ability to create one within the time available.

By contrast to the other two challengers mentioned here, Kleeman only raised $50,005 in the reporting 2012 cycle 1 and 2. The campaign received no PAC money — all of his contributions were from individuals. The largest contribution by far was made by the candidate himself, $38,900, all of which is shown as a loan to his campaign. Kleeman received only 52 contributions for his campaign.

By contrast, his opponent, Brownlee, received 5,532.39 in 2012 cycle 1 and 2012 cycle 2. The bulk of this money, $5,400.00, came from PACs.

Kleeman spent $27,070.12 during 2012 cycle 1 and 2, most of it for consulting and polling ($16,864.88.) He also spent $2,000.00 on database consulting, and only $270.00 on postage. There are no expenses shown for volunteers or staff.

Brownlee, on the other hand, spent only $5,950.60 in 2011 and $3,889.87 in 2012 in the run-up to the campaign. There are two expenditures that relate to campaign door knocker distribution that total $1,631.62. There are no volunteer or staff expenses shown. Like Roebuck, it is apparent Brownlee was intent on using the established Democratic machine in her area to get out the vote.

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