BY JOE SHAHEELI/ The Red Robin of statistics â€“ new and changeover registrations â€“ determining what kind of a turnout will mark this May 21 primary, has lost the bright red chest it had at the beginning and now shows a very dull red. Thatâ€™s because just over 12,500 new and changeover registrations have appeared on the books at the close of registration this week. Minuscule, compared to the record registration drive last year energized by the Presidential vote and the assault on the voter-ID legislation.
That portends one of the poorest turnouts in at least eight years for this off-year primary election. Neither the cityâ€™s row-office candidates for District Attorney nor City Controller have set off sparks. No one is challenging incumbent DA R. Seth Williams in the Democrat primary nor Danny Alvarez in the GOP column.
The luster lost is even more obvious when one realizes the City Controllerâ€™s race has three challengers going against incumbent Alan Butkovitz, of whom only repeat challenger Brett Mandel is making noise. Still no sparks have been set even though the four have appeared together in public reform. GOP candidate Terry Tracy is unchallenged in the primary.
This should prove to be a boost, anyway, for the Democratic Party, which has endorsed a full slate including Judge Joe Waters for Superior Court, and for the vacant seats in Common Pleas, Municipal and Traffic Court. Little has been heard from Watersâ€™ primary opposition.
What smoke does curl up is in the efforts of the Democratic City Committee to insure the unendorsed candidates in the top tiers of the judicial races for Common Pleas, Municipal and Traffic Courts donâ€™t win in this primary. If the wards bring out the partyâ€™s faithful long-time primary voters in decent numbers, all the endorsed will win. If not, see at least a couple of unendorsed judicial candidates sneak in.
The GOP has no opposition to its endorsed slate in the judicial field.
WILL IT BE REP. TAYLOR IN FOR CANUSO IN G.O.P.?
Among his other titles, State Rep. John Taylor (R-Kensington) could well be considered the front runner to assume the leadership for the Republican City Committee, should Chairman Vito Canuso decide to retire.
Contrary to earlier reports, Canuso has not resigned, though he is considering it for the sake of reuniting the GOP. Canuso fully understands what needs to be done to get this party moving. When he spots that individual, heâ€™s indicated he might step down.
In the meantime, one of those could be Taylor, who has managed to reign supreme in Kensington, Juniata Park and Kensington, despite changing demographics and strong opposition in what now is a Democrat-dominated legislative district. His importance to Philadelphia as its only voice in the Republican controlled House has mushroomed. Others have been mentioned.
With all the scenarios under discussion powered by State GOP Chairman Rob Gleasonâ€™s continuous pressure for change, all sides among the divided City GOP agree Joe DeFelice will occupy the executive directorâ€™s role. Should the ranks of division close, he should be able to end the stampede that has kept the Republicans charging at each other instead of fighting Democrats for voter allegiance.
WILL WALMART P.A.C. GIFTS HAUNT SCHWARTZ?
When pulling in campaign funds totaling over $3million in her tenure as a Congresswoman, which has carried over to her campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania, it is possible to miss the fact contributions from one source can create a problem with another supporter.
Though Allyson Schwartz (D-Phila.) might explain to organized labor she doesnâ€™t involve herself in policing whose contributions she should not receive, the consistent donations from WalMartâ€™s PAC must worry organized labor, which has lost many recruitment battles in its attempts to unionize that huge employee market.
As recent as her first-quarter finance report for Mar. 4 of this year, Schwartz took $2,500 from WalMartâ€™s PAC, which is a no-no in the labor community. Itâ€™s an interesting contribution to accept when youâ€™re running for Governor in a competitive Democratic primary and you normally count on getting all of organized laborâ€™s support in this primary.
That could be explained away. But she has a history with WalMart PACs. In October 2011, she received from Wal-Mart Stores Inc PAC for Responsible Government, Bentonville, Ark., a donation to Schwartz for Congress of $1,000 and again the same amount in March 2012 from the same PAC.
Now that she has two other ladies joining the fray, one with Rendell accreditation and possibly strong labor allies as well, itâ€™s time to ponder if her fast start from the gate might be slowing up with the field she left behind by several lengths now at her heels.
In that field now are challengers who have every intention of overcoming Schwartz.
The most-moneyed and ready to dump $10 million of his own money into the race is Tom Wolf, who has just hired well-known Democratic strategist Mary Isenhour to guide his campaign. She remains a close political ally of former Gov. Ed Rendell, who has yet to indicate his preference in the wide field of potential 2014 Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls. She will serve as senior advisor.
Wolf needs to take a tip from the recent failed effort of Tom Smith, who came close enough to concern US Sen. Bob Casey in the Democrat primary for that seat.
Now Isenhour must make sure, early on, voters know, not so much as who he is, but what he plans to do to bring decent employment opportunities back to the Commonwealth.
Wolf served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Revenue for two years from 2006 to 2008. Since then, heâ€™s run his family construction supply business in York Co.
Wolf faces his former colleagues, former DEP Secretaries John Hanger and Katie McGinty, as well as pastor Max Myers and Schwartz.
We think it is about time Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and several other Democrats give up entering the race, unless they can tap millions of dollars from supporters.
Only Sestak has polled higher than Schwartz, but the retired Admiral has not made any moves signaling he will run. His good showing across the state leans toward him running for Governor.
With its immediate past director Mike Barley on his way to manage Tom Corbettâ€™s reelection campaign, the Pennsylvania Republican Party has chosen to move up Bob Bozzuto to Executive Director, from his post as Deputy Executive Director.
â€œBob has been a key member of my team since 2007 and strategically led our political and campaign efforts that helped to elect Gov. Corbett, US Sen. Toomey, 13 Congressmen, majorities in the State Senate, State House, State Appellate Courts and 51 County Courthouses. With critical races in 2013-2014, we have a team that will deliver important wins, again,â€ said PAGOP Chairman Rob Gleason.
MANDEL CLAIMS HIGH-INFO EDGE IN POLLâ€¦
An internal poll conducted by the Brett Mandel campaign gives this challenger an advantage over incumbent City Controller Alan Butkovitz â€“ and one that grows with votersâ€™ information on the race.
Sources inside the Mandel campaign are pleased with the result of a poll conducted by Marc Silverman of 39th Street Strategies, a Democratic firm based in Washington, D.C. The poll found 27% of voters inclined toward Mandel as opposed to 23% for Butkovitz. Another challenger, Mark Zecca, was a distant third at 4%.
After information was shared about the candidates about Mandel and Butkovitzâ€™s positions and policies, however, Mandelâ€™s preference score jumped to 56% while Butkovitzâ€™s support dipped to 14%.
Mandel staffers say this confirms their campaign strategy of targeting high-information voters in the low-turnout May primary. Theyâ€™re counting on a strong surge in â€œread and writeâ€ wards to buoy their candidate, who has run before, has published frequently and has good name recognition. Public discontent with municipal government is strong after high-profile fiscal problems with the School District and AVI, and the usually sleepy Controllerâ€™s race may stimulate some voters to seek a change.
Butkovitz holds most of the cards when it comes to organizational endorsement and is far from unknown himself, having worked the cityâ€™s ward functions loyally. And he has some reform credentials to his credit.
â€¦AND SCORES OAK LANE SUPPORT
Ever active, vote-producer Marion Wimbush and his Democrats of Oak Lane Team are hosting a meet-and-greet at the home of Latrice Bryant, 142 W. Manheim, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. this Friday. His endorsed ticket includes Brett Mandel for Controller. The others are Omar Sabir, Timika Lane, Judge Fran Shields, Martin Coleman, Dawn Tancredi and Vince Giusini. Theyâ€™ll pick up additional votes thanks to his efforts.
N.O.W. HONORS STEPHANIE FOR WOMENâ€™S RIGHTS
Philadelphia NOW will be honoring Commissioner Stephanie SingerÂ and community activist Helen Gym, , at its annual Spring Fundraiser at Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square on May 2 from 5;30 to 7:30 p.m. Donation of $100 is suggested. For info call Tammy Gavitt, NOW President, at (215) 906-2987. Both are being honored for advancing women’s rights.
GREEN SHADOW CABINET BEGINS OPERATIONS
Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the 2012 Green Party presidential and vice-presidential nominees, will unveil the Green Shadow Cabinet this coming Monday, Earth Day. The Cabinet will operate in the tradition of shadow cabinets in other countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, responding to actions of the government in office, and demonstrating that another government is possible.
The Green Shadow Cabinet includes over 80 prominent scientists, community and labor leaders, physicians, cultural workers, veterans, and more, and will provide an ongoing opposition and alternative voice to the dysfunctional government in Washington, D.C.
What Cheri needs to do is increase Green registrations in her own back yard here in Philly.
SUPREMES DOING SOMETHING RIGHT
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court says races for the county offices of jury commissioner wonâ€™t appear on the primary ballot, allowing parties to decide who will be candidates in the fall election.
The high courtâ€™s one-sentence order Thursday upheld a Commonwealth Court judge who two weeks ago rejected a request by the jury commissionersâ€™ organization to establish an expedited schedule for primary races.
The legal issue arose after the Supreme Court threw out a 2011 law that had let counties eliminate the office. Forty-two counties did so, but then the justices said the law violated a state constitutional provision restricting laws to a single subject.
This week the State Senate passed a replacement jury-commissioner elimination bill. Itâ€™s pending in the House of Representatives.
WHOâ€™S KIDDING WHO IN JUDICIAL APPâ€™TS?
Late last week, in an unprecedented move, Senate Judiciary Committee Minority Chairman Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) released a list of five Republican judges he says Senate Democrats would confirm for a Supreme Court vacancy. Heâ€™s been told by Senate Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) to pound sand.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW? A LANCASTER TRAFFIC FIX
The Judicial Conduct Board has notified District Judge Kelly S. Ballentine she violated a constitutional ruling by discharging three traffic citations â€œissued to her in 2010â€. The Board notified her she needs to answer the charges by tomorrow.
First, Phila. Traffic Court, and next the district judgesâ€¦. Maybe the members of the Judicial Board need to have their driving records checked. Time for pols to put an end to the witch-hunting.
SCHWARTZ KICKS OFF WITH COLLEGE FOLKS
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz joined Pennsylvania College Democrats for their final statewide conference call of the semester. Speaking to students from universities and colleges across the Commonwealth, Schwartz said she â€œannounced for Governor just 10 days ago because Pennsylvania canâ€™t afford to stand still.â€
Schwartz began the call by talking about the affordability of college, saying, â€œGov. Corbett made history by attempting to cut funding for higher education by 50%.â€ The Congresswoman explained Corbettâ€™s position was too extreme even for Republicans, leading to only a 20% cut.
ANOTHER NIGHTMARE? VOTER REGISTRATION ONLINE
Pennsylvania may soon embrace online voter registration.
A bill that passed the State Senate proposes just that. â€œI think it is a common-sense change that encourages people to participate in the process. It’s hard to argue against that,â€ said State Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), the legislationâ€™s main sponsor. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.
Twelve states already have online paperless voter registration.
Whatâ€™s left for political parties to do?
PA. CONSIDERS RAISING JUDGESâ€™ RETIREMENT AGE
A House subcommittee hearing has examined HB 79, which would raise the required retirement age for justices to 75. The Pennsylvania Constitution states all justices must leave the bench by the end of the year they turn 70. They can continue to serve as a senior judge, which part time, until they turn 78. Seems Keystone State Supremes do have some friends in the Legislature.
COME ON, JOE, GIVE US THE NEWS
Former Congressman and Admiral Joe Sestak has raised over $460,000 in the first three months of 2013 â€“ all for an individual who has said he is not sure where his political plans will take him. Itâ€™s the first firm indication that he seeks to run for office in the near future.
All of the cash came from individual donors â€“ primarily longtime Sestak supporters â€“ most of whom contributed the federal maximum of $5,200. Almost all of the money was reported as having come in during the final two weeks of March, much of it on Mar. 31.
He also changed the name of his campaign committee from â€œSestak for Senateâ€ to â€œFriends of Joe Sestakâ€ â€“ though it is still designated as a US Senate campaign committee. Itâ€™s expected, as even the near-sighted can see, he will announce for Governor.
Sestak has told reporters he intends to return to public service but offering few clues about which office. Sestak, 61, served in the U.S. Navy for over 30 years before his election to Congress in 2006.
Physician and activist Dr. Valerie Arkoosh narrowly overcame State Sen. Daylin Leach in an informal survey taking by PoliticsPA which included 1,380 votes.
Arkoosh took an even 400 to Leachâ€™s 385. State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast) came in third with 142 votes, followed by Montgomery Co. Commissioner Leslie Richards with 109 and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies with 95. Former Philly Controller Jonathan Saidel, since withdrawn from the race, got 56 votes.