POLS ON THE STREET: Born to Run? Try Your Luck in Philadelphia’s 2019 Primary

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KEYNOTER at Philadelphia’s Labor Day Parade was Gov. Tom Wolf, who is running for re-election this fall and will welcome all labor voters. Heeding his speech were, L-R, John Greer, host Local 19 Assistant Business Manager Bryan Bush and Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Political insiders are fascinated by the potential impact of the Philadelphia vote of two important statewide races, for the governorship, currently held by Democrat Tom Wolf and for the U.S. Senate seat of Robert Casey (D-Pa.). But no one doubts the outcome of either race in thoroughly Democratic Philadelphia – the only question is how much the city can contribute to the Dem ticket and if it will be enough, given what happens in the rest of the commonwealth.

Two November State House races within city boundaries are up in the air. Serious stakes ride on the outcome of the contests in the Northeast’s 170th Dist., where State Rep. Marina White (R-Northeast) is being challenged by Mike Doyle, and in the 177th Dist., where Republican Patty-Pat Kozlowski is going against Democrat Joe Hohenstein. There are even statewide ramifications, so do not be surprised to see outside money popped into these neighborhood contests.

MARY JANE SCANLON, Delaware County candidate for Congress, greets parade spectators. Scanlon also runs in Philly’s 26th, 39th and 40th Wards. Photo by Joe Stivala

But they’ll grab half an eye’s attention at most among the city’s political activists. The real speculation is about who will run in the May 2019 Democratic primary election.

City Council at-Large seats always attract a slew of interest, at least this early in the season. They are generally the easiest municipal posts from which to dislodge incumbents. An effective citywide race requires lots of money, at least $100,000, along with a pre-existing network of influence and supporters. But these can come in many different forms. Luck of the draw, in the form of a good ballot position, will keep many a candidate sticking around until February at least.

This year, there is added speculation that Council Members at Large Blondell Reynolds Brown and Bill Greenlee, both age 65, may retire. They’re not too old to serve for several more terms if they choose. But neither have been vigorous fundraisers in the past four years and both know well how much it costs to run for their office in both time and money.

STATE SEN. John Sabatina, L, came down the Delaware with his ticket mate Mike Doyle, who is running for state representative in the Far Northeast. Photo by Wendell Douglas

If they plan to quit, they will keep their counsel close. They will gain power by confidential discussions with friends and admirers who might like their endorsement. Come January, they may start to leak their plans.

Until their plans become clear, though, that puts seven at-large seats potentially up for grabs. Since it costs little to dream between now and then, expect two or three times seven up-and-comers to float their names as at-large aspirants.

Shrewd players are weighing other row offices.

With City Commissioner Anthony Clark stepping down this year, several flags have been raised to replace him. Traditionally, his seat is held by an African American.

SARA JOHNSON ROTHMAN, who is running for state representative in Montgomery County, appreciated a moment in the limelight with Gov. Tom Wolf. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Omar Sabir, a loyal activist in the camp of State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-W. Phila.), who inherits former Congressman Chaka Fattah’s clan leadership, will make his second run for this office. He will have the support of the muscular Laborers’ Unions.

Dennis Lee is likely also to make a second run. A former deputy city commissioner, lee is well known around town.

Keith Harris, who is sergeant at arms at City Council, may be able to tap Council leadership for support. (We should note that a former City Council sergeant at arms, Bob Brady, went on to do quite well in elective office.)

Then there’s the office of Sheriff. Incumbent Jewell Williams shows no inclination to retire, so any new blood in this race can come only in the form of a challenge.

L-R WERE Deputy Mayor for Labor Rich Lazer, activist Tony Faulk, state rep candidates Danilo Burgos and Mary Isaacson, and State Rep. Jason Dawkins. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Political consultant Brian Stevenson, who was schooled in the world of IBEW Local 98, has been promoting his brother Dan Stevenson. Dan has a background in the Philadelphia Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. He has served on Violent Crime Impact Teams. He was injured in the line of duty during the U.S. Marshals’ Operation Falcon. He has working as public-safety director for the 1st Councilmanic District.

Stevenson is well known and well liked around town. He would tap a pool of voters that is not closely connected to Sheriff Williams. And even if he should come in second … he is relatively young, with a chance at another go-around in another four years. Not a crazy race for him.

Obama Returns, Stumping for Casey

STATE REP aspirant Joe Hohenstein, L, marched with AFSCME DC 88. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Former President Barack Obama is set to visit Philadelphia for a fundraiser on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

He will be bookending the Keystone State with top talent from the previous administration. Last weekend, former Vice President Joe Biden worked a Pittsburgh crowd for Casey, participating in the Labor Day parade, which was as fiercely politicized there as it was here.

Don’t look for many hardhats at the upcoming Obama event. It is said that tickets may go as high as $33,000. If true, though, this is a tribute to Obama’s residual star power.

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