Pols On The Street: Turnout Worries

Filed under: Politics,Pols on the Street |

by Joe Shaheeli

LARRY PLATT, at podium, is co-founder and editor of “Phila. Citizen”, which will pay $10,000 to randomly selected individual who votes in Phila. on Nov. 3, hoping to increase voter turnout on election day and encourage citizens to become more actively involved in civic life of Phila. Platt was joined by former Mayor of Phila. John F. Street, right, and Sam Katz, left.

LARRY PLATT, at podium, is co-founder and editor of “Phila. Citizen”, which will pay $10,000 to randomly selected individual who votes in Phila. on Nov. 3, hoping to increase voter turnout on election day and encourage citizens to become more actively involved in civic life of Phila. Platt was joined by former Mayor of Phila. John F. Street, right, and Sam Katz, left.

Except for the flood of last-minute television commercials promoting Supreme Court candidates, voters already know for whom they will vote – that is, if they decide to vote. Pollsters, election stats and political leaders see signs of another poor turnout in Philadelphia and its bedroom counties.

That’s not the case in the western part of the state, particularly in the counties of Allegheny and Westmoreland. Southwestern Pennsylvania routinely comes out to support its native sons in statewide races.

Precedent in Philadelphia indicates another low turnout, though the 26% turnout in the primary, prodded by the mayoral competition, was a spike upward.

For instance, a look at absentee-ballot applications by Philadelphia voters indicated just over 1,000 returns were recorded. With recent past performances, the actual absentee-ballot voting will come in under half of that. Not much, especially with all the clamor to make absentee voting easier.

OPENING NIGHT from Theatre Exile’s Rizzo by Bruce Graham. Rizzo has been sold out every night through previews – including Wednesday night’s opening night at Christ Church Neighborhood Center. As a surprise, mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, along with Frank DiCicco, helped give curtain speech and told some of their favorite Rizzo stories. From left, Frank Rizzo, Jim Kenney, Frank DiCicco, Sal Paolantonio and Joe Canuso enjoy show. Photo by Hugh E. Dillon

OPENING NIGHT from Theatre Exile’s Rizzo by Bruce Graham. Rizzo has been sold out every night through previews – including Wednesday night’s opening night at Christ Church Neighborhood Center. As a surprise, mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, along with Frank DiCicco, helped give curtain speech and told some of their favorite Rizzo stories. From left, Frank Rizzo, Jim Kenney, Frank DiCicco, Sal Paolantonio and Joe Canuso enjoy show. Photo by Hugh E. Dillon

That doesn’t compare well to Western Pennsylvania’s chief county, Allegheny, which is only 80% as populous as Philadelphia, with 1.2 million residents, clocked 5,571 absentee ballots as of Wednesday, with one more workday until deadline. (One should note, though, that most of Allegheny County’s population is suburban and suburbanites are more likely than inner-city dwellers to travel and thus request absentee ballots.)

If East votes East and West votes West, does that indicate a larger turnout from the West, even with a smaller population than here in the East, could mean a split-party decision at best for Philadelphia interests?

A story elsewhere in this edition covers an offering of $10,000 for a lucky voter chosen randomly. Its legality is still up in the air.

Rallies by Democratic and Republican leadership have not been packed as hoped. Candidate forum viewing and attendance are poorer than expected.

Contributing to this apathy is the fact Philadelphia voters have accepted Jim Kenney will be their next Mayor. Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey had no money to wage a television ad campaign. So people will be asking, “Who is she?”

STATE REP. Cherelle Parker hosted fundraiser at Capital Grille. VIP attendees included Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and State Rep. Dwight Evans. Photo by Robert Mendelsohn

STATE REP. Cherelle Parker hosted fundraiser at Capital Grille. VIP attendees included Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and State Rep. Dwight Evans. Photo by Robert Mendelsohn

In fact, her campaign has been eclipsed somewhat by the campaigns of the five Republican Council-at-Large candidates, who, though commendable, did not increase Republican registrations or absentee-ballot applications. Prime-time television exposure was limited to the mayoral debates.

The effort to increase local turnout concentrated on the contested State Supreme Court, with each party’s leadership realizing fully what was at stake.

But there are no signs they have boosted voter interest in this race, despite its historic importance. The chance to elect three justices at once has enormous implications for the political balance of the Keystone State, literally as far as 15 years down the road if one takes into account the Supreme Court’s potential role on 2021 redistricting maps.

CITY-COUNCIL-AT-LARGE candidate Allan Domb hosted breakfast for State Sen. John Sabatina, Jr., with members of Painters Local DC-21, Mark Rowe of Teamsters Local 77. Speaking in background is State Sen. Larry Farnese.

CITY-COUNCIL-AT-LARGE candidate Allan Domb hosted breakfast for State Sen. John Sabatina, Jr., with members of Painters Local DC-21, Mark Rowe of Teamsters Local 77. Speaking in background is State Sen. Larry Farnese.

It’s obvious a Supreme Court candidate needed millions to make it this far to the general. In the primary, records showed that race cost candidates together well over $5 million. Associated Press reports a new record has been set for fundraising in an election for State Supreme Court: Candidates for the three open seats on Pennsylvania high court have raised more than $10 million.

In 2007, nearly $7 million in cash contributions were raised with about $1 million more from in-kind contributions, according to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. There were two open seats during that election cycle (with four candidates) – both won by Democrats – plus one sitting member of the court was up for retention. And just like in 2007 – and most such elections – a large portion of the funds raised come from lawyers and law firms, particularly trial lawyers, and labor unions (mostly for Democratic candidates in the latter case).

AL TAUBENBERGER; Annie Havey, deputy executive director of Republican City Committee; and Bobby Rydell enjoy fundraiser for Taubenberger’s councilmanic campaign at FOP 5 Hall in Far Northeast. Photo by Bill Myers

AL TAUBENBERGER; Annie Havey, deputy executive director of Republican City Committee; and Bobby Rydell enjoy fundraiser for Taubenberger’s councilmanic campaign at FOP 5 Hall in Far Northeast. Photo by Bill Myers

Unless the State legislature moves rapidly to place caps on how much money can be contributed to this and other statewide judiciary races, look for voters to lose their right to vote for those aspiring to those levels.

A constitutional amendment change how Pennsylvania’s appellate judges are selected took its first step Tuesday by clearing the House Judiciary Committee by a 16-11 vote.

HB 1336 by State Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) would create a merit-selection system for members of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts, allowing a commission of 13 members appointed by the Governor and members of the General Assembly to make recommendations to the Governor as to who should become appellate judges when vacancies arise.

CAPITAL GRILLE saw intimate funder of high-rollers last week for councilmanic aspirant Derek Green. Among attendees were, from left, parking magnate Bob Zuritsky, Green, Dr. Peter Yaffe, Ward Leader Dan Muroff and Vanessa Fields.

CAPITAL GRILLE saw intimate funder of high-rollers last week for councilmanic aspirant Derek Green. Among attendees were, from left, parking magnate Bob Zuritsky, Green, Dr. Peter Yaffe, Ward Leader Dan Muroff and Vanessa Fields.

Under the bill, the commission would send three names to the Governor, who would pick one to be confirmed by a majority of the Senate.

Cutler introduced similar legislation last session that was ultimately pulled from the committee’s agenda before it could be brought up for a vote.

Thanks to a spirited Republican Council-at-Large campaign, with five competing for a maximum of two seats, whatever chance the independents and progressives had of successfully merging forces behind one of their own has greatly diminished. Republican turnout is expected to be higher than in other general elections.

Incumbent Councilman David Oh and Dennis O’Brien have been the focus of the other three, Terry Tracy, Al Taubenberger and Dan Tinney.

REPUBLICAN City Committee hosted large fundraiser for mayoral campaign of Melissa Murray Bailey at Cottman Avenue HQ. Standing tall were, from left, Camille McColgan, Register of Wills candidate Ross Feinberg, Jack Morley, Murray Bailey, Ward Leader Kevin Pasquay, Exec. Dir. Joe DeFelice, RCC Chair State Rep. John Taylor and councilmanic candidate Terry Tracy. Photo by Bill Myers

REPUBLICAN City Committee hosted large fundraiser for mayoral campaign of Melissa Murray Bailey at Cottman Avenue HQ. Standing tall were, from left, Camille McColgan, Register of Wills candidate Ross Feinberg, Jack Morley, Murray Bailey, Ward Leader Kevin Pasquay, Exec. Dir. Joe DeFelice, RCC Chair State Rep. John Taylor and councilmanic candidate Terry Tracy. Photo by Bill Myers

O’Brien’s efforts to get reelected have not surfaced, indicating he’s hoping his past support continues.

Oh, Tracy and Tinney have picked up labor support, usually reserved for Democratic candidates. This past week, Taubenberger picked up the endorsement of Hospital Workers Union 1199C.

“Al Taubenberger is a person who will look out for working class families of Philadelphia and our union members,” said NUHHCE 1199C President Nicholas in a letter to the union’s nearly 20,000 Philadelphia members. “District 1199C believes wholeheartedly that Al can and will do just that. He is the right candidate for the job.”

Added Taubenberger, “I am deeply honored by this prestigious endorsement of my candidacy by Philadelphia’s dedicated hospital and health care employees. District 1199C President Henry Nicholas is a living legend in Philadelphia’s proud labor community and his words carry great weight. If I am fortunate enough to be elected to City Council on Nov. 3, I will be a strong voice for labor’s issues and for all of Philadelphia’s working-class families.”

COALITION of progressive activists, many known from ADA work, vowed to endorse independent at-large councilmanic candidates Nov. 3 at meeting in S. Kensington. Among them are numbered, from left, Numa St. Louis, Andy Toy, Sam Durso, Glenavie Norton, Green candidate Kristin Combs, Kristin Davis and Pamela Roy.

COALITION of progressive activists, many known from ADA work, vowed to endorse independent at-large councilmanic candidates Nov. 3 at meeting in S. Kensington. Among them are numbered, from left, Numa St. Louis, Andy Toy, Sam Durso, Glenavie Norton, Green candidate Kristin Combs, Kristin Davis and Pamela Roy.

Taubenberger’s labor endorsements include five of the more-active unions. NUHHCE follows the endorsements of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, Philadelphia Firefighters & Paramedics Local 22, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Teamsters Local 830, Pennsylvania Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, AFSCME District Council 33, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors.

Enter Frank Keel, long-time publicist for labor leader John Dougherty, who has been handling Taubenberger’s campaign. Endorsements, etc., indicate a Dougherty touch.

INTIMATE funder invited a core of Phila. professional leaders to Stradley Ronon conference room to hear Republican councilmanic candidate Terry Tracy share his insights on revitalizing city. From left are William Sasso, Esq., Tracy, School Reform Commissioner Farah Jiménez, Esq.; and Dr. Harold Yaffe.

INTIMATE funder invited a core of Phila. professional leaders to Stradley Ronon conference room to hear Republican councilmanic candidate Terry Tracy share his insights on revitalizing city. From left are William Sasso, Esq., Tracy, School Reform Commissioner Farah Jiménez, Esq.; and Dr. Harold Yaffe.

Dan Tinney came out with a lengthy endorsement from State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast) as well as a barrage against Oh and O’Brien. Tinney has previously been endorsed by the FOP Lodge 5, IAFF Local 22 Fire Fighters & Paramedics and exclusively by the Philadelphia AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia Building Trades.

Tracy brought his reputation as a highly respected business executive to the forefront and has picked up union support, as well as contributions from those seeking more business minds on Council.

Although all Republican at-large candidates say for the record they are seeking to represent Republican values and positions, in practice in a general election, Republicans who can attract crossover votes from Democrats and independents can gain an edge over Republicans who appeal only to their base. Therefore, in a race to land among the top two out of five, a Republican candidate is powerfully motivated to engage in a discreet bipartisan lovefest.

SAVVY Ward Leaders John Sabatina, Sr. and Shawn Dillon enjoy moment with Supreme Court candidate David Wecht, State Sen. John Sabatina, Jr., and Ward Leaders Pat Parkinson and Bill Dolbow at well-attended 66A Ward pre-election gala. Photo by Bill Myers

SAVVY Ward Leaders John Sabatina, Sr. and Shawn Dillon enjoy moment with Supreme Court candidate David Wecht, State Sen. John Sabatina, Jr., and Ward Leaders Pat Parkinson and Bill Dolbow at well-attended 66A Ward pre-election gala. Photo by Bill Myers

For their part, donors and endorsers find the Republican at-large race enticing because they find in it a chance to play an actual role in selecting a sitting Council Member in the general election. They had the same chance earlier in the Democratic primary, but all those candidates are shoo-ins now, so contributors have no more impact on their election.

Nancy Pelosi Endorses Jim
US Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her endorsement of Philadelphia’s mayoral nominee Jim Kenney, capping, we trust, the last of the late-comer endorsements.

The Congresswoman noted Kenney’s commitment to strengthening Philadelphia’s middle class. “I am proud to support Jim Kenney for Mayor because Jim will always be a fighter for Philadelphia’s working families. On City Council, Jim earned the reputation as a hardworking, determined advocate for Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. As Mayor, I know Jim will fight every day to fix Philadelphia’s schools and grow Philadelphia’s economy.”

Lisa Deeley Seeks Younger Voters
Lisa Deeley, a Democratic nominee for Philadelphia City Commissioner, unveiled her campaign’s poll signs, ditching the traditional name and ballot number for a unique hashtag: #IVotedPHL. The hashtag is designed to engage voters through social media and encourage younger voters to show up to the polls and participate in next Tuesday’s election.

“On Election Day, I want to encourage voters to tag their posts and pictures with #IVotedPHL,” Deeley said. “Take a selfie, tell your friends on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – get creative and tell everyone that you love to vote in Philadelphia. I want voters to share their experience at the polls, and make our hashtag the ‘I Voted’ sticker for the 21st century.”

COUNCILMAN David Oh hosted Black Film Advisory Committee panel at Venice Island. From left are Oh, Nakia Dillard, Kharisma McIlwaine, Amira Smith, moderator Mike Dennis, Carla Morales, Rob Schwartz and Bernard Glincosky. Photo by Wendell Douglas

COUNCILMAN David Oh hosted Black Film Advisory Committee panel at Venice Island. From left are Oh, Nakia Dillard, Kharisma McIlwaine, Amira Smith, moderator Mike Dennis, Carla Morales, Rob Schwartz and Bernard Glincosky. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Deeley’s poll signs encourage voters to “Spread The Word” and use the hashtag when posting about their experience via their favorite social media platform, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Deeley is the first political candidate to use a hashtag campaign to increase voter turnout in Philadelphia. Her strategy is borrowed from recently successful hashtag campaigns designed to increase brand or issue awareness such as Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke and the ALS Association’s #IceBucketChallenge.

“My goal is to have #IVotedPHL trend locally on Twitter, and ultimately, increase awareness of next Tuesday’s election. I hope young voters who see that their friends have voted will be extra motivated to go out and vote themselves and then tell us about it on social media,” she said.

Deeley’s poll signs will be distributed through the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee and will be placed at every polling place throughout Philadelphia on Election Day, Nov. 3.

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One Response to Pols On The Street: Turnout Worries

  1. I think turnout percentages can be helped by removing non-voters from the rolls. People who haven’t voted in a certain number of elections are bringing down overall participation numbers.

    Michael E. Bell
    November 9, 2015 at 7:28 pm

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