POLS ON THE STREET: May 15 – New Faces, Narrow Escapes

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WHAT A RACE! The Corporate Challenge in the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta drew a valiant eight from City Council. L-R were Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s aide John Fenton; Councilmen Bobby Henon and Curtis Jones, Jr.; Jones’ staffers Charlita Davis and Dinah Hayward; Councilwomen Cindy Bass, Helen Gym and Derek Green; and coxswain Brannon Johnson of BLJ Community Rowing, who trained them. Although the crew finished last, it remains first in the hearts of its constituents. Photo by Allison Murphy

In Philadelphia, three newly redrawn congressional districts were star attractions in the May 15 primary election. There were lively Democratic contests in all.

PHILADELPHIA Young Democrats held a pre-election get-together at Laborers’ Local 332 hall. Photos by Wendell Douglas

In the 2nd District, which takes in most of Philadelphia from N. Broad Street and Center City through the Northeast, Brendan Boyle had to cover a lot of new territory where banker Michele Lawrence had a lot of connections. Boyle did hold onto his seat by a 64-36% margin.

Congressman Dwight Evans’ new 3rd District was mostly familiar to him. He held off OIC head Kevin Johnson 81-19%.

The 5th District was a zoo: a vacant seat, radically different from all the previous political landscape that had gone into its making. Ten Democrats finished the race in a district that reunited all of Delaware County, with a sliver of the Montco Main Line and a big chunk of South Philadelphia.

L-R, giving the high was LDC Business manager Ryan Boyer to State Rep. Chris Rabb, joined by Michael Cogbill, Southeastern Pennsylvania organizer for CeaseFire PA.

Three in the field came from Philly – Mayor Jim Kenney’s former Deputy Mayor for Labor Rich Lazer, medical-lab scientist Molly Sheehan and young activist Lindy Li. The first two had hoped they would gain an edge from their strengths in South Philly, maybe sneaking past as all the Delco candidates stole each others’ lunches. Li had a crack at South Philadelphia’s large Asian American community. And all three had plausible bases in Delco as well.

In the end, though, by competing against each other to the end, together they lost a federal privilege Philadelphia has long enjoyed: three members of the U.S. Congress who are Philadelphians. Because they could not work together, we’ll now be down to two.

Mary Gay Scanlon, a Swarthmore lawyer who leads Ballard Spahr’s pro bono unit, won 33% of the Delco vote and 10% of the Philadelphia vote, where former Mayor and Gov. Ed Rendell had endorsed her. That was more than enough to win a 10-way race with around 14,000 votes. Lazer came in second at around 9,000, while Ashley Lunkenheimer took third place with around 8,000, with around 99% of the vote counted.

L-R WERE Sinceré Harris, executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party; State Rep. Jason Dawkins; City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley; and Ishmail Shahid.

Another odd show was the lieutenant governor’s race, where an incumbent Democrat, Lt. Gov. Stack of Northeast Philadelphia, was tackled by four challengers. Only one was from Western Pennsylvania: charismatic small-town Mayor John Fetterman. Two were from the Philly suburbs: Chester County Commissioner Kathy Cozzone and Montgomery County business Ray Sosa. Stack faced a fifth challenger from his home town: another former Deputy Mayor, Nina Ahmad from the Northwest.

This made it hard for Stack to consolidate his natural geographical base, while Fetterman was free to scoop up all of Steelers Country for himself.

Fetterman romped home with 38% of the vote, guaranteeing him low-cost national attention. Ahmad, whose campaign was well funded, took second with 27%. Cozzone brought home 18% while Stack held onto 17%. Statewide, Stack won around 125,000 votes – 51,000 of which came from Philadelphia, the only county he led in. Ahmad won around 37,000 votes at home, but 180,000 statewide.

GOP Races Strike Sparks in Philly

THERE IS even a place for dogs in politics. Pre-election partying took place at the home of Republican Ward Leaders Denise Furey & Matt Wolfe (5th and 4th from R) in Spruce Hill. They drew a lively crowd of West Philadelphians, including Ward Leader Andrew Gentsch (5th from L) and dog Liam (C).

The Republican primaries were the only statewide contested races. In these, the outcomes tracked most campaign polls, with party-endorsed challengers winding up on top.

Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) will seek to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. This will be a joust between rival knights from the Hard Coal region.

Despite the endorsement, and his fame as a loud, early backer of Donald Trump, Barletta’s opponent State Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) did impressively well, with 36% of the vote. Little known and poorly funded, Christiana nonetheless got the usual Western Pennsylvania hometown vote. But he fared well in other areas as well (see below).

State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) will be the party’s nominee for governor. He ran comfortably ahead of businessman Paul Mango and attorney Laura Ellsworth, with 44% of the vote versus Mango’s 37% and Ellsworth’s 19%.

THE FAMOUS Deli in Queen Village is a traditional election-day luncheon pit stop for campaigners. These lads were brandishing the heads of congressional candidate Rich Lazer and Gov. Tom Wolf. Photos by Wendell Douglas

Anyone can run for lieutenant governor in an out-of-power party, and four people did in the Republican primary. Endorsed Jeffrey Bartos won, but by a plurality of 47%. His three opponents – Kathy Coder, Diana Irey Vaughan and Peg Luksik – split the majority vote.

Republican women are not untouched by the national mood to see women swing more weight in political counsels. In this case, though, the Year of the Woman proved to be the Year of Too Many Women.

The Philadelphia GOP showed a rebellious streak. Christiana was much closer to Barletta here, only 55-45%. Mango actually sneaked past Wagner here, 41-39%, and Ellsworth also improved her score by 2 points. Kathy Coder, a businesswoman and busy party bee in Allegheny County, led the pack with 40% of the vote, with Irey Vaughan, who also campaign here, at 30%. For an endorsed Montco neighbor like Bartos to come in third, at 26%, was a big snub.

TWO RETIRED state senators, Vince Fumo and Bob Rovner, showed up to enjoy the excitement and gossip about the races.

A sobering note for Republicans statewide: Democratic turnout was strong.

Several State Rep Contests Flare up

In the 175th District, first-timer Debby Derricks ran a surprisingly strong campaign against seasoned State Rep. Michael O’Brien, losing by 58-42% – a strong showing for a first-timer against a reputable incumbent.

In the Port Richmond-Mayfair 177th, endorsed Joe Hohenstein, who ran before, took 37% in a four-way field. Sean Kilkenny and Maggie Borski took 24% each while musician Dan Martino garnered 15%.

STATE SEN. Larry Farnese, on his home turf, enjoyed the company of City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley.

This splintering matters because Hohenstein’s opponent in the fall will be new Republican Patty-Pat Kozlowski – in one of the city’s few legislative districts in where a Republican stands a fighting chance. Kozlowski’s unopposed primary drew only 141 fewer votes than Hohenstein did in the Democratic battle. Admittedly it is a strongly Democratic district by registration. But its bluecollar voters value service over partisanship. Well known in that area for her Democrat and nonpartisan service in City Council and in Parks & Recreation, Kozlowski will aim to shave some of these splinters of the fall Dem ticket on the QT while DCC attempts to keep all the district’s warring factions in line.

THE GANG was all here at Relish on election day. Among the throng were, L-R, State Sen. Art Haywood, State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald and lieutenant governor candidate Nina Ahmad. Photos by Leona Dixon

State Rep. Jason Dawkins easily set back challenger Abu Edwards for the second time in two years, cruising home on 76%. Every cycle this fight comes up in this Kensington-Frankford district; this year, it ended much as it had in the past.

In North Central’s open 181st District, party-endorsed Malcolm Kenyatta on a 42% plurality, muscled past four opponents: Lewis Nash, Lewis Thomas III, Jason Alexander Deering and Gilberto González. Nash, at 27%, was the most-formidable rebel in this district, where many ward organizations appear to be thin on the ground.

Had the various rebels assessed the challenge accurately in advance and teamed up, with a longterm strategy behind a single leader, they could probably have knocked off the endorsed candidate, Kenyatta, who did not have a doorbell-base campaign. But even a weak organization can beat a strong disorganization.

STATE SEN. Anthony Williams, L, talked politics with seasoned observer Bob Bogle of the Philadelphia Tribune.

In another open district, the 184th in South Philadelphia, Elizabeth Fiedler solidly thumped three opponents with 51% in an open seat that drew a rip-roaring turnout of more than 9,000 votes. She will be the first journalist in the Philadelphia delegation in many years.

The endorsed candidate, Jon Rowan, had massive labor backing and lifetime neighborhood connections; but he started too late, held back by lengthy dawdling on the part of incumbent State Rep. Bill Keller over retiring. By the time Keller finally bowed out, Fiedler had for three months been running a smooth, well-orchestrated campaign with all bases covered: door-knocking, fundraising, social media. Rowan didn’t have enough catchup time.

STATE REP. Donna Bullock enjoyed a chance to meet Gov. Tom Wolf.

Fiedler and Rowan were trailed by two other candidates, attorney Tom Wyatt and police detective Nick DiDonato, Jr.

In West Philadelphia’s 188th, State Rep. Jim Roebuck survived a three-way with 56% of the vote. Southwest Philly advocate Diane Settles took 26% while University City attorney Jeff Curry got 18%.

Another West Philadelphia district, the 190th, saw State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown fend off two repeat foes, Wanda Logan and Ray Bailey, with 65% of the vote. While this district is never at peace electorally, in the end it will stick with a diligent constituent-servicer.

In Kensington’s heavily Latino 190th District, chaos followed chaos. State Rep. Emilio Vázquez, although a ward leader, was turfed out of the party endorsement in favor of Freddie Ramírez, who had been endorsed in the last cycle – but tossed off the ballot because he did not live in the district. Ramirez was supported by former State Rep. Leslie Acosta, who lost her seat after a criminal involvement.

SAMPLING Relish’s fare were, L-R, Councilwomen Jannie Blackwell and Blondell Reynolds Brown, with WURD owner Sarah Lomax Reese.

But Danilo Burgos came into this rematch and, saying, essentially, a plague on both your houses, took the nomination with a 37% win in a three-way race! Burgos was an expression of the might of the Tartaglione-Matos clan and State Rep. Angel Cruz. Political alliances in Kensington’s latino neighborhoods are historically turbulent and volatile.

In the Lower Northwest’s 198th, State. Rep. Rosita Youngblood bested challenger Bernard Williams with 69% of the vote.

A cliffhanger enlivened the Far Northwest’s 200th District, where freshman State Rep. Chris Rabb was charged head on by Melissa Scott, a favorite daughter of the powerful 50th Ward, led by Marian Tasco and aided by her protégée Councilwoman Cherelle Parker. Rabb barely survived, 52-48%, buttressed by his base as 9th Ward leader.

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