Labor Splits Over Philadelphia’s 170th House Dist., Turns It Into Wide-Open Race

Filed under: Featured News,Labor |
MARTINA WHITE enjoys lavish lineup of labor leaders in support at FOP Hall.

MARTINA WHITE enjoys lavish lineup of labor leaders in support at FOP Hall.

by Joe Shaheeli

It’s not unlike organized labor to split over candidates. Labor unions more often endorse Democratic candidates. Sometimes, they’ll side with a challenger. But in special cases, they all gather behind one Republican.

In Philadelphia, that Republican is State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast), who also is the city’s Republican City Committee chair.

Come Tuesday, Mar. 24, the 170th Legislative Dist.’s successor to Congressman Brendan Boyle will be picked by voters. This is a special election held only in one part of the Northeast, the same as a general election. Winner takes the State House seat.

Two aggressive young neighborhood ladies, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, are battling for the seat, each going door to door asking Northeast voters for their support.

Normally, one would expect the unions to mass their support behind the Democratic candidate Sarah DelRicci. But Thursday morning, Republican candidate Martina White took the stage at the FOP Hall on Caroline Road to announce she had an array of locals now on her side.

Joseph Ashdale, business manager/secretary-treasurer of DC 21 of International Union of Painters & Allied Trades, said, “These labor leaders all shared this thought: ‘Why not use this election to send a labor-friendly Republican legislator to the State House? Another Democrat win means State Rep. John Taylor will continue to be the only Republican legislator from Philadelphia in the General Assembly strongly dominated and controlled by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. A win for Martina White gives labor an additional voice among Republicans.”

The special election will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 24. Fortunately, the State will reimburse the City for the over $100,000 expected to be spent to open, man the polls and advertise the election.

Endorsing White’s candidacy for the State House were Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5; IAFF 22, Philadelphia firefighters; IUPAT DC 21; AFSCME DC 33; Teamsters Local 500; Gas Workers Local 686; Drywall Fitters Local 1955; IATSE Stagehands Local 8; Glaziers Local 252; Sprinkler Fitters Local 692; UA Steamfitters, Local 420; Painters 2011; and Plasterers Local 8. Also on hand was a major representative from the City’s DC 33 union.

“Martina has a strong financial background and the professional experience to hit the ground running as a new State Representative and fight for local working families,” added Joe Ashdale, explaining why White received the endorsement of so many unions. “She is a moderate, commonsense Republican whom we trust to be part of the majority in Harrisburg, giving a voice to the issues that matter to our members.”

A lifelong resident of the Northeast, White is a professional financial advisor who works with working-class families to help them reach their financial goals – be it saving for a child’s education, retirement, or simply paying off their home. Her family has strong ties to the trades, including her grandfather who has operated a union trucking business for decades.

FOP President John McNesby, who hosted the announcement, said, “Martina White shares our values and our vision for strong and safe neighborhoods for every resident.  That’s why the men and women of our police and fire fighters are giving her our support.”

Joe Schulle, of the Philadelphia Firefighters Union, added, “Martina White represents one of the best and brightest our city has to offer.  She’ll stand up for working families and be a vocal advocate for bipartisan cooperation that puts our families ahead of political gamesmanship.”

White, who has already been endorsed by prominent Northeast leaders Taylor and Councilman Brian O’Neill, was grateful for the support offered. “Since day one of this campaign, I’ve said I care only about what’s best for the people of the Northeast – not politics, and not partisanship,” White stated. “I think these endorsements send a strong signal to the people of the Northeast that I stand with working families, with our seniors, and with our kids. I am humbled and thankful for this support and will work hard every day to honor the trust you have placed in me.”

She was tapped to run by O’Neill’s staff, who know who’s who in their Council District, which encompasses this legislative district.

Two weeks earlier, the Democratic Ward leaders involved in the district endorsed Sarah DelRicci, whose husband John was to have been the candidate. He elected not to run, but asked instead for his wife to be endorsed. That endorsement reportedly has dampened the enthusiasm of the Democratic committee people in some areas of the district.

But some labor unions were inspired to endorse her, led by Sheet Metal Workers’ Union’s President Gary Masino and attended by other labor leaders including representatives from the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters. Also in attendance was Democratic City Chairman Congressman Bob Brady.

Nevertheless, what was seen as an uphill battle for Republicans hoping to reclaim what had long been a Republican District, is now seen as a wide-open race. Special elections that are not timed with a citywide election tend to have small turnout and are unpredictable. The ground game matters. And White is now guaranteed footsoldiers and funding.

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