POLS ON THE STREET: In DA’s Race, the Biggest Slice Will Win

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CONSORTING with the enemy? Former Gov. Ed Rendell posed with a redcoat re-enactor at the gala ball that marked the opening of the long-awaited Museum of the American Revolution. Photo by Bonnie Squires

The DA’s race will be sliced up by seven candidates. Whose slice will deliver the most votes on Election Day? With a turnout of 16% of the Democratic vote predicted by many politicos, that doesn’t call for a lot of votes for one to become the plurality winner.

What goes into the making of each candidate’s slice of the vote will depend on whose endorsements carry the most weight. That is hard to figure. Endorsements come in all sizes and shapes, from political personalities, to right-left-middle-of-the-road activist groups, to unions, to wards, and to newspaper editorial endorsements. Some bring only a dash of flair, such as Gov. Ed Rendell’s endorsement. Groups based on causes and special interests can appeal to numbers of voters. Unions bring members seasoned with volunteers and dollars, trained in political activism. Wards turn out party faithful.

With the DA’s race of seven rounding the far turn, we see Larry Krasner moving slightly ahead as he has successfully drawn to his campaign the city’s left-of-center organizations and their liberal movements.

The 24th, 46th and 51st Wards held a joint Candidates Night at The Enterprise Center in University City. Controller Alan Butkovitz, himself a ward leader, L-R, joined his colleagues Tony Faulk, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Bernadette Wyche. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Krasner’s campaign is endorsed by a broad range of progressive organizations. These include Neighborhood Networks, whose chair, Gloria Gilman, summed up why he has drawn them to his campaign.

She said, “Larry Krasner has a 30-year track record of standing up for people’s movements. We see all too many politicians talk the talk. Krasner has spent 30 years demonstrating to us that he will walk the walk.”

Others in his camp include AFSCME 1199C; Pennsylvania Federation Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees – IBT; BLOC (Build, Lead, Organize, Campaign); Food & Water Action Fund; Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club; Penn Democrats; Pennsylvania Working Families Party; Philly for Change; Reclaim Philadelphia; 215 People’s Alliance; Color of Change PAC; Democracy for America; Our Revolution; and Real Justice PAC.

SEEN flanking City Commissioner Al Schmidt, C, at fundraiser in his honor are former Republican Party Chair Joe DeFelice, L, on his way to bigger duties, and State Rep. John Taylor, Republican legislative powerhouse. Photo by Harry Leech

Ward leaders and elected official endorsing him include former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, 50th, and State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, 10th, two members of the high-turnout, predominantly African American wards known as the Northwest Coalition. The 8th Ward and 27th Ward Democratic Committees endorsed him, as did Ward Leader Elaine Tomlin, 42nd.

Elected officials endorsing Krasner include Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker.

Unions for him include UNITE HERE Locals 274 and 634, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, AFSCME District 1199C National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees.

National organizations, some with Philadelphia chapters, have latched on to him. They include MoveOn.org, Real Justice PAC, The Political Revolution PAC, Democracy for America, Color of Change PAC, among others.

Philly Set Go, a millennial group, endorsed Rich Negrín as Democratic candidate for district attorney and Beth Grossman as Republican candidate for district attorney. This followed Negrín’s endorsement from a host of law-enforcement groups, including the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, Spanish American Law Enforcement Association, Guardian Civic League and National Black Police Officers Association, as well as Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, Katie McGinty, Caribbean-Latino PAC, and State Reps. Emilio Vázquez and Donna Bullock.  He also drew number one on the ballot.

Topping list of endorsements for Joe Khan is Gov. Ed Rendell, who has a great reputation and could draw votes. He has crucial ward endorsements such as the 5th, 9th, 41st, 45th, former Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, State Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Kensington), the National Organization of Women and Gold Star father Khizr Khan.

Judge Teresa Carr Deni has Operating Engineers 542 behind her as well as a long history of satisfied defendants and prosecutors whose thousands of cases she had rendered verdicts in her years of service on the bench. She is also the only woman candidate and did sacrifice a long term on the bench to run for district attorney. She has given up the most to enter.

Tariq Karim El-Shabazz, once a Golden Gloves champion, and former first Assistant District Attorney and recipient of the Prosecutorial Merit Award, has the support of many in the Laborers District Council, a very formidable group with a proven history of electing candidates. A recent poll showed him ahead in voter choice, but the press has not been kind to him about legal problems he reportedly has. That is weighing him down, making it possible for Krasner to move into the lead.

Late-comer to the DA’s race, John O’Neill, picked up eight unions, almost half of the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council. Philadelphia Building Trades President Wayne Miller explained this was not a formal endorsement of O’Neill by the Building & Construction Trades, but rather the individual endorsements of select unions.

At 35, he is the youngest candidate in the race. He has reportedly picked up a big super-PAC with ties to Local 98, which is making a $125,000 buy supporting his campaign. O’Neill could have been further ahead than he is now due to his late start, since commitments were made by some ward leaders who would have signed on to him earlier. He does not have money worries and that may help him down the stretch.

First out on television was Michael Untermeyer, who has a political history as a candidate, running in races for both major parties.  He knows the ground game, with 56th Ward Leader John Sabatina signed on as his point man in the battle to win the allegiance in the Greater Northeast, some wards in North Philly and some in South Philly.

Committee of 70 Today Is a Ghost of Itself

The Committee of Seventy in the mid-’60s and through the late ’70s was a group to be feared and appreciated. Feared by those who would try to illegally stir votes to their candidates, it was equally appreciated, especially by committee people and independent candidates, when young attorneys would show up within minutes after the Committee phones rang to arbitrate a polling-place conflict. Today, few can call and depend upon any such legitimate arbiter from the Committee of 70 arriving at a polling place in time, if at all, to solve a problem.

THE 37TH WARD held its Candidates Night at Ebenezer Baptist Church in N. Philadelphia. Present were, L-R, Rev. Michael English, Rev. Dr. John L. Payne, judicial candidate Deborah Cianfrani, Ward Leader El Amor Brawne Ali and judicial candidate Zac Shaffer. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Now 70 has gone to more irrelevancy by teaming up with Philadelphia 3.0 to re-file a lawsuit demanding the three city commissioners be replaced by designated Common Pleas judges before the May 16 primary. That PAC wants to saddle the courts with the duties which now are the responsibility of the city commissioners.

Their initial lawsuit, filed with the State Supreme Court, targeted Common Pleas Court President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper and argued the city commissioners should be removed when there is a ballot question asking for a Home Rule Charter amendment. Such a question is on the May 16 ballot.

The State Supreme Court dismissed the case without an opinion explaining the reason for dismissal. The plaintiffs re-filed the lawsuit in Common Pleas Court and named the three commissioners as defendants, not Woods-Skipper.

If successful, the commissioners could be on the sidelines any time a ballot question is on the ballot. And that happens quite often. It is an attempt to make the commissioners irrelevant.

The commissioners have previously said that Committee of 70 and Philadelphia 3.0 are wrong. State law does not apply, since Philadelphia has its own Home Rule Charter.

Commissioner Lisa Deeley commented, “We heard nothing from the Committee of 70 as to the faultless conduct of the last presidential election, setting a record turnout. It is obvious the Committee of 70 has joined with other so called government overseeing groups to continue validating its existence and preserving its hefty payroll, furnished by well-intending donors.”

She added, “It is time donors demand why the Committee of 70 has lost its way.”

City commissioners oversee the election process, ensure bipartisanship wherever possible at the polls on election day, and ensure every registered voter gets to cast his vote with no interference.  Where challenges are registered, they attend to it immediately, seeing to it the matter is settled so challenger and challenged get their day in court immediately.

Casey at Bat – and He’s 3 and 2

Our popular US Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) is not paying much attention to changes in the winds that propel the voters of this commonwealth. We are sure his campaign staffers share with him the belief he is locked into his seat.

They believe this is so despite the fact Donald Trump won the commonwealth, though by a scant margin of 50,000-plus seats. That was amazing in view of the fact Philadelphia delivered Hillary Clinton a bit over half a million majority.

The more news releases his office churns out, the more voters are beginning to learn his policies and efforts continue to mirror those of Clinton’s. Again we caution him to be aware of growing evidence he is no longer looked at as an elected official sharing in the beliefs of religious organizations, especially the Roman Catholic Church.

Normally reticent, the Church’s leadership is making their thoughts more public. Just recently, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the pledge from the Democratic National Committee’s chair to support only pro-abortion candidates “disturbing” and “intolerant.”

The cardinal, who is chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic Party to “challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”

The cardinal blasted a statement by DNC chair Tom Perez, who said, “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

Cardinal Dolan, who offered prayers at the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2012, added the party’s “platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat – indeed, to be an American – requires supporting that extreme agenda.”

Dolan’s message will be picked up and repeated often in the next primary. We suggest Casey rethink his position on abortions or be prepared to face the toughest reelection of his career. If we think the Trump win was a fluke, think again.

The Philadelphia turnout for Clinton is not likely to ever be repeated. The Trump phenomenon across the rest of the state has not abated, underscored by his appearance last week in Harrisburg.

REBECCA RHYNHART’S daughter Julia was ready for her mother’s debate against incumbent City Controller A

Millennials Tap Rhynhart

Millennials in Action endorsed Rebecca Rhynhart for City Controller. Millennials in Action is a local organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout among millennials – individuals ages 18-35 – by fostering a culture of civic engagement and community service, and by influencing local elections through political fundraising and grassroots organizing.

Abu Edwards, Chairman of Millennials in Action, said, “We are proud to endorse Rebecca Rhynhart for Philadelphia’s city controller. The controller is the fiscal watchdog of our local government and is responsible for making sure government dollars are spent appropriately, as well as for auditing city agencies to make sure taxpayer dollars are not being mishandled. Rebecca’s desire to modernize and streamline government will save millions of dollars that can be re-allocated towards the services we need. She is the person to help move Philadelphia forward, and for that reason we encourage all Philadelphians to get out to the polls on May 16 and select number 61 on the ballot to cast their votes for Rebecca Rhynhart.”

Rhynhart said, “One of the reasons I am running for city controller is because I have a vision for the future of Philadelphia, and I want to make sure our city is moving forward and ready for the next generation of leaders. Millennials in Action embraces the importance of the millennial vote, understanding that the demographic is key to the future of our city. I appreciate all the organization does to excite millennials about the democratic process and remind them of their ability to affect change by voting, and I am extremely grateful for their endorsement.”

Rhynhart argues she is the most-qualified candidate for city controller in recent history. With 15 years of financial experience, she spent the last nine years working at the City of Philadelphia, first as city treasurer and budget director and then as Mayor Kenney’s chief administrative officer. In her first run for office, Rhynhart presents herself as the candidate with the independence and qualifications to restore trust, seeking to ensure government works on behalf of all Philadelphians. She is challenging the incumbent controller Alan Butkovitz.

Rhynhart has been endorsed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gov. Ed Rendell, the Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia and NOW.

The Philadelphia primary will take place on May 16, 2017.

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