POLS ON THE STREET: Many Dem Wards Elect New Leaders in Philadelphia

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State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast), R, was joined by his brother, Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast), to announce companion legislation to officially change Election Day nationwide and statewide to the weekend after the first Friday in November in order to increase voting accessibility, engagement and turnout.

It’s more a generational change than a partisan conflict. After all is said and done, few Democratic ward leaders were overthrown by rebels in the June 4 committee elections. But there will be many new faces in Democratic City Committee for the next four years, largely because many old-timers burned out and sought fresh blood to take their places.

There was one true overthrow: in South Philadelphia’s 2nd Ward, where Ed Nesmith was turfed out by a well-organized millennial brigade led by Nikil Saval.

Southwest Philadelphia’s 51st Ward has been struggling to find its way in recent years. Incumbent Ward Leader Tony Faulk by took 6 votes; he was topped by Vernon Brown with 7. But insurgent Gregory Benjamin had done his homework and nailed down 30 votes, in a ward whose organization has been fragile for years.

The 22nd Ward in Northwest Philly dumped incumbent Ward Leader Ron Couser in favor of Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who wanted the job. It was not so much a judgement on Couser as an acknowledgement that Bass swings more weight.

Three other serious ward fights left the incumbents whole.

In the Far Northeast’s 58th Ward, Ward Leader Jim Donnelly survived a challenge from an ambitious rival, Jimmy Lewis, by 2 votes. Lewis has vowed to press his case in Commonwealth Court, based on his interpretation of election law (which defies the longstanding practice of Philadelphia City Commission). If CC upheld his challenge, it could potentially throw into chaos not just the 58th Ward election, but 100 other ward elections as well. Appellate courts don’t do this. So expect Lewis to lose in court.

Mistaken reports cast the attack on Donnelly as a plot by Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-Phila.). Observers who regularly follow ward politics know the real feud is among many other rival Northeast politicos – an opera in which Boyle is little more than a spear-carrier on this street-level stage. Seek Lewis’ key outside backers in neighboring ward leadership circles instead.

Since this election is legally contested, DCC will study it in its Contest Committee.

In Lower North Philadelphia’s 47th Ward, incumbent Ward Leader George Brooks survived an organized challenge by 2 votes. His committee will remain split, and his voice weakened in DCC councils. Dissidents hold important committee posts now and will be a force to reckon with going forward.

The prestigious 9th Ward in Chestnut Hill-Mt. Airy saw a marked pushback to freshman Ward Leader State Rep. Chris Rabb … shortly after he pulled off a hard-fought primary challenge for his day job from the neighboring 50th Ward. But the challenge to his ward leadership was strictly internal. Rabb pulled it out in the end.

Two South Philly wards saw leadership shift from building-trade experts to white-collar millennials. One was the 2nd Ward, as noted above. But the huge 1st Ward also elected a new leader, Adam Ruekes, who is the husband of Elizabeth Fiedler, who just beat the Building Trades’ candidate for state rep, Jon Rowan.

But this is not so much a defeat for labor as an adaptation by labor. Fiedler is a strong union supporter, Building Trades leader John Dougherty noted. The 1st Ward’s backup team was running out of gas, so it welcomes new energy.

Rebuild activists rattled a few windows in Roxborough’s 21st Ward but did not seem to know precisely what they were voting about at times, leaving incumbent Ward leader Lou Agre to return for another term.

In the 53rd Ward in Northeast Philadelphia, Ward Leader Janice Sulman survived a surprise attack by Mona Cohen, the wife of Judge Mark Cohen, who is a scion of progressive trailblazer David Cohen and served for decades in the State House of Representatives.

The neighboring 55th Ward saw veteran Ward Leader Bob Dellavella survive a challenge led by Dennis Kilderry, a foe of long standing.

Most other ward turnovers reflected retirement and burnout decisions.

In Germantown’s 12th, Ted Stones is taking over from Greg Palmiere, who had been around for a couple of cycles.

NEWLY ELECTED 2nd Ward Democratic Committee people assembled at the Saigon Maxim Restaurant at 6th Street & Washington Avenue for the election of a ward leader and officers. Nikil Saval, R, beams broadly with supporters on his election as ward leader. The massive influx of millennial residents into the ward ensured that 23 of 27 divisions were won by the Reclaim Philadelphia and 3.0 movements. Also elected were Kelly Morton as chairman, Gloria Gilman as 1st vice chair, Kristin Dator as 2nd vice chair, Coleen Puckett as 3rd vice chair, Lizzie Rothwell as secretary, Joan Duckenfield as assistant secretary, Dermot Delude-Dix as treasurer, and George Donnelly as assistant treasurer. Photo by Joe Stivala

In the neighboring 13th Ward, Charles Carn will assume the leadership, freeing up State Rep. Rosita Youngblood.

In West Oak Lane’s 17th Ward, Michelle Schley has taken over from Reynard Hughes. This is an unsettled ward that is searching for stable new leadership.

In Lower North’s 18th Ward, Theresa Alicea is taking over from Helen Farrell. She is an operative of State. Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Kensington).

In another Lower North ward, the 20th, retired Shirley Kitchen has passed the baton to Renee McNear.

Former Councilman Dan Savage turned over leadership of the 23rd Ward in Kensington to his brother Tim Savage.

The 30th Ward, which covers the Graduate Hospital area of South Philly, saw existing Ward Leader Marcia Wilkof and Ward Chair John Adler trade places.

In South Philadelphia’s 48th Ward, the long reign of Ward Leader Lee Schwartz came to an end as Anton Moore, a hard-working street activist, garnered strong support from the committee people. He vows to run the ward progressively, transparently and independently.

In another retirement move, Marian Tasco ceded leadership of the Northwest’s 50th Ward to her protégée Councilwoman Cherelle Parker.

Wynnefield’s powerhouse 52nd Ward finally clarified what observers have known for years: that former Mayor Michael Nutter does not actually run that ward, but Steve Jones does. Congratulations on your new, and well-earned, title, Steve!

The 64th Ward in the Northeast has a new ward leader: Peter McDermott, who succeeds the Bednarek family.

Peace on Earth for Gov’t Budgets

The outlook for budget deals at both the State and City levels is dialed-down drama in June 2018.

In Harrisburg, everyone is running for re-election, so no one will demand cutbacks in any particular program. Instead, Republicans and Democrats alike will brag about cost-cutting in general, in theory.

In City Hall, the rubber will touch the road one way or another this month. That’s because law does not allow municipalities to miss their budget deadlines the way Harrisburg does.

Ever wonder why Harrisburg likes to nag Philadelphia about Philadelphia’s fiscal management – when Harrisburg can’t manage to do the basic fiscal-management task that Philadelphia reliably does? Maybe we should offer counseling to Capitol Hill on how to run a government.

Wagner Wants Debates in All 67 Counties

Republican challenger Scott Wagner wants to debate Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in each of the state’s 67 counties prior to the Nov. 6 general election.

RE-ELECTED despite a challenge to his post as Democratic 55th Ward Leader, L-R, Councilman Bobby Henon, Committeeman Jeff Stewart and State Rep. Mike Driscoll congratulated Bob Dellavella. Stewart just won his position in a vigorously contested write-in campaign.

That would mean one debate for Philadelphia County, population 1, 516,000. And one debate for Cameron County, population 5,100 … you get the drift.

As a Republican Wagner’s strongest base is in rural counties, so it is natural that he seek to focus his campaign there. Understandably, Wolf’s campaign dismissed Wagner’s request as a gimmick; there is no way any two candidate can cram in 67 debates anywhere in the next five months, let alone in places like Cameron County.

“It’s time for Pennsylvanians to have a gubernatorial campaign that focuses on them for a change,” Wagner said in a campaign statement. “I believe that Gov. Wolf is failing us, and that it’s important for voters in every county to get a chance to see the differences between us in person so that they can make an informed choice when they head to the polls in November.”

Wolf’s campaign responded by pointing out how Wagner failed to attend several debates among the three Republican candidates during the primary election. As proof of its claims, Wolf’s campaign cited criticism from one of Wagner’s GOP primary opponents, Paul Mango, who called Wagner a “chicken” and challenged him to “man up” and debate.

Wagner has shown significant interest in the Philadelphia vote, for a Republican. He recently forayed into a West Philadelphia park to make a point about its maintenance. Some of his policies have shifted toward urban moderates in recent months.

Will Wagner seek to win with the votes of Cameron County alone? He’ll need urban votes as well to win.

Unethical Casey, Bad Barletta

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and his Republican opponent Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) agree on one point: Their foe has broken the law.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania is preparing to file a formal complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Casey for his use of his official Senate resources to benefit his re-election campaign.

COUNCILMAN Kenyatta Johnson opened the first district councilmanic office in Southwest Philadelphia. It is at Myers Rec Center, 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue.

“A review of Casey’s campaign activities revealed that, on Mar. 10, 2015, Casey posted to his campaign Facebook page a video from his official Senate office’s YouTube page of Casey giving a speech on the Senate floor,” charged PAGOP.

“According to Section 6.2 (a) of the Senate Ethics Manual, “The use of any tape duplication of radio or television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for political campaign purposes is strictly prohibited.”

Firing back, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Executive Director Sinceré Harris filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics for Barletta’s use of official floor footage from the U.S. House in a Senate campaign advertisement. According to House Rules, floor footage, including broadcast coverage of floor proceedings, may not be used for any partisan political campaign purpose.

In addition to sending a press release with a video of floor footage uploaded to the campaign’s YouTube page, the Barletta campaign ran ads with the footage.

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2 Responses to POLS ON THE STREET: Many Dem Wards Elect New Leaders in Philadelphia

  1. I don’t mean any harm but this article is inaccurate. Please do your research before you publish an article.

    Anton Moore
    June 8, 2018 at 9:45 pm

  2. Please contact our editor (editor@phillyrecord.com).

    Tony West
    June 15, 2018 at 11:32 am

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