POLS ONTHE STREET: And They’re Off! Candidates Seize Clipboards

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COUNCIL Allan Domb launched his re-election campaign at 15th Street Baptist Church. With him were clergymen, L-R, Lewis Nash, Sr., Stephen Wilson, Yahya Abdul Latif, Elder Ricky T. Bowman and Hassan Abdus Sabir. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Starting Tuesday, the street fighting of the 2019 municipal primary season began in earnest.

Step one for anyone wishing to be a mayor, City Council member, City commissioner, register of wills, sheriff or judge is to get enough valid signatures of registered voters on their nominating petitions to get on the ballot.

Step two is to make sure they have enough signatures on their petitions that can survive the hostile scrutiny of potential rivals; this requires a careful and diligent approach to step one.

COUNCILMAN David Oh addressed a gathering at the Union League’s Lincoln Room to launch his re-election campaign. Among guests and supporters was Grammy Award winner Carvin Haggins.

For the citizenry at large, the coming month will be an excellent chance to meet officeholders on street corners or at parties, asking them, not yet to vote for them, but just to help allow them run for office. Many of these candidates will be new to the average voter, who may have little understanding even of the purpose of the offices these candidates are running for.

We hope these encounters will provide a bit of needed civics education for many.

Goggins Endorsed by GOP for Mayor, Despite Disability

16th Ward Leader Daphne Goggins was endorsed by Republican City Committee to head its ticket as its mayoral candidate. Her endorsement was remarkable in many ways.

First, she will be the first Black woman endorsed for mayor by the GOP. Second, she has survived an unusual vote to reconsider its endorsement – after, thirdly, learning that she receives disability payments, leading some to wonder how she can handle the duties of the mayoralty.

CITY COUNCIL colleagues, as well as DA Larry Krasner, came out on Saturday at Taller Puertorriqueño as Maria Quiñones Sánchez announced her campaign for re-election for the Council seat of the 7th District.

Goggins maintains that her medical condition, which she remains discreet about, would not impair her functioning as mayor – a job that does not involve heavy lifting, she pointed out. She said that her disability lawyer cleared her legal path to run.

Observers judged that Goggins won RCC’s backing largely due to force of personality. An outspoken lifelong Republican who prides herself on having talked in person with President Donald Trump, one person who attended the meeting commented of her, “She presents well.”

It surely also helped her that, as a ward leader, her fellow members of RCC were familiar with her and trusted her.

Goggins had two rivals, attorney Billy Ciancaglini and businessman Robert Hunter II. Hunter could not be reached for comment by press time but Ciancaglini, who has run for citywide office before, has vowed a primary fight and may have adequate resources to undertake one.

26th WARDS-12 DIVISION Democratic Committeeman John Zimmerman, L, continued his meet-and-greet candidate series and this time opened up his home and welcomed neighbors to hear from City Council at-large candidate Sherrie Joyce Cohen, 3rd from L.

Such a contest could lend a little spark to the Republican primary, gaining the party precious coverage in debates and instilling in its base a feeling that their votes matter.

As with all other primary races, the first test is to get enough signatures to make the ballot. Petition circulating poses special challenges for Republicans in a city where they are outnumbered by Democrats 7-1. Except in a few areas, simply standing on street corners or knocking on doors tends to be unproductive work. The candidate who best masters this art will likely hold the high ground on primary election day.

Armstrong Challenges Clarke in 5th District

If elected to the 5th Councilmanic District, Sheila Armstrong will be the first City Council member at least in recent memory to be a resident of the Philadelphia Housing Authority.


That is one of her electoral assets, she believes. The sprawling Richard Allen Homes that include her high-rise contain thousands of citizens in her North Central community.

Public housing and homelessness are core parts of her community – which she knows well. As past president of Spring Garden Elementary School’s Home School Association, she dealt with a school population 35% of which came from the Salvation Army shelter for homeless families. Her own two sons went there as well. And she herself has a history of homelessness.

So she knows how to get around the projects. And she’s not shy.

JUDICIAL hopeful Wendi Barish opened her campaign office with a host of supporters, among them Brittany Smalls, L, and Kallel Edwards, field organizer.

“I don’t think of myself as a politician but as an activist,” Armstrong said. “I was a feisty little girl. I always spoke for my community.”

Now aged 42, she has working political credentials. She was a longstanding staffer for State Rep. Rosita Youngblood and has worked as a field director on other campaigns. In 2015, she ran for Council at large as an independent and won 5,466 votes. She got on the ballot by herself, by hitting the streets at SEPTA stops, recruiting 3,000 signatures; so she is confident of her ability to make it onto the primary ballot this winter.

A high-school dropout, after struggling through a background of poverty and abuse, Armstrong gained a master’s degree from Phoenix University in 2015.

SHOOTING for a judgeship, Nicola Serianni, C, held a successful fundraiser at Sassafras in Center City. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Armstrong has been active with Women Against Abuse as well as POWER (People Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild), a respected faith-based community group. She asserts ties with Reclaim, Councilwoman Helen Gym and the Stadium Stompers, who are opposed to Temple University’s proposed football stadium in the area. She also proffers a background in small-business development, with a funding track record.

“Gentrification is a good thing in North Central,” she said. “It increases property values.” But she is disappointed with the payback to the community so far. “Our streets are potholed. Our public housing is dilapidated. Our schools are filled with lead, mold and asbestos. As the mother of one child with autism and another with asbestos, I want to see immediate remedies.”

Armstrong faces a powerful opponent in Council President Darrell Clarke.

Dennis Lee Seeks City Commission Seat Again

Among the candidates running for a seat as Philadelphia City Commissioner, there is perhaps no non-incumbent with more relevant experience than Dennis Lee, who previously served in the row office as a chief deputy City commissioner. The Philadelphia native – he went to Overbrook High and graduated from Lincoln University – also knows what it’s like to run for the position, having been knocked off the 2015 ballot for City Commissioner because of failing to report his income as deputy City commissioner.

“I have unfinished business. I will get on the ballot and I will win,” he explains.

To do so, Lee is keeping his message simple: The committee person who worked for eight years as the constituent-services representative for State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-W. Phila.) plans to focus on voter registration, voter education, and voter participation as the keys to making Philadelphia even more of an electoral juggernaut in local, state and national politics.

“2002 was the last time we voted 51% of registered voters” in Philadelphia, he said. “We have to stop voting in just presidential elections.”

In addition to increasing voter turnout, Lee declares that electoral reform is a must, especially for the basics like absentee ballots.” In 2016, 17,000 people who put their [absentee ballot] application in were recorded beyond the deadline,” he said. “Last election, 2,100 people were disenfranchised because of outdated policies. We should all be upset about that.”

Lee wants to start early on the second pillar of his platform, education. specifically, he wants to begin teaching civics as early as day care, continuing all the way through high school, to produce an informed electorate. “We ask our students to register to vote – but that’s it!” he exclaimed, noting that without proper guidance, it’s no wonder that potential voters feel less of an impetus to exercise their right to participate in the electoral process.

“Voting should be on everybody’s agenda,” Lee emphasized. “There are two major systems in America: economics and democracy. And democracy is in trouble. We need to go back to the basics. We can do more.”

AT-LARGE councilmanic candidate Justin DiBerardinis launched his campaign with a rollicking party at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Young DiBerardinis Launches with Backing

In the crowded at-large City Council races, it helps to be “fustest with the mostest.” Justin DiBerardinis, the son of former Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis and former Philadelphia Horticultural Society head Joan Reilly, starts out with a lot of inherited goodwill. He now is claiming both the heftiest campaign fund and an intimidating rack of endorsements.

Ron Donatucci, Philadelphia’s Register of Wills and the Democratic leader of South Philly’s 26th Ward, endorsed Justin DiBerardinis.

“This is a family with a history in Philadelphia, coming up from the neighborhood and putting their all into making Philadelphia better for everybody,” said Donatucci.

Donatucci joins State Reps. Jason Dawkins (D-Kensington), Joanna McClinton (D-W. Phila.) and Jordan Harris (D-S. Phila.) as well as former Gov. Ed Rendell.

WASTING no time in his efforts to get on the spring primary ballot was City Commissioner candidate Luigi Borda, who collected his first signature at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 19 from a potential voter as petition season has officially begun.

DiBerardinis, 37, is a community organizer who led the fight for a new Willard Elementary School in Kensington, and served as legislative director for Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District). He most recently led the revitalization of Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philadelphia.

The union representing faculty and staff at Philadelphia’s Community College, FSFCCP, and 5th Square, an influential urbanist group, are also on board.

Reclaim Taps Three Council Candidates

Reclaim Philadelphia’s membership voted to endorse Councilperson Helen Gym and Erika Almirón for City Council at large and Tonya Bah for the 8th District.

ANNOUNCING another run for a judgeship, Dan Sulman rallied backers. L-R were Councilman Derek Green, Dan Sulman, and Ward Leaders Sharon Vaughn and Janice Sulman.

“We believe that Gym, Almirón and Bah have shown an undeniable commitment to building a Philadelphia that centers the needs of our multiracial working class,” the group’s statement read. “They have also demonstrated a clear commitment to building strong, people-centered campaigns that we are confident will make it onto the ballot and into the hearts and souls of Philadelphians. Reclaim Philadelphia believes these three candidates will boldly and courageously lead the city in pursuit of transformative change.”

Reclaim Philadelphia centers its work on racial, economic and gender justice. It played a role in electing Larry Krasner to DA, Elizabeth Fiedler to State House, 186 committee people, and two ward leaders.

Murray Enters the GOP at-Large Fray

A political newcomer, Drew Murray, is running for City Council at large as a Republican.

For the past four years, Murray has served as president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The area has experienced a surge in development and families.

Murray touts his community experience, solid relationships and perspectives on how to make Philadelphia better and safer. He says, “In this challenging and sometime toxic political environment, leadership and a moral compass are paramount to our country, our state and the City of Philadelphia. I offer a Republican view that will provide a balance of perspective needed in Philadelphia’s City Council.”

An experienced sales manager, Murray went to St. Joseph’s Prep and holds an MBA from Temple University.

“There was never a question that Philadelphia would be my home as an adult and it’s where my wife and I are raising our daughters. The fabric of the city and its vibrancy is special, but it can be improved,” says Murray.


An inaccurate quotation purportedly from Council President Darrell Clarke about Councilman Bill Greenlee’s (4th District) impending retirement appeared in the Feb. 14 “Pols on the Street.” Here is the correct comment, as cited by WHYY: “I’ve worked with Greenlee since we were both City Council staffers, and I can attest there has not been one day that he lost his heart for this job,” Clarke said. “While it saddens me personally to be losing him as a colleague, I know that Bill is practically incapable of sitting still and will find new and effective ways to serve the Fairmount neighborhood and beyond.”

In that column, councilmanic candidate Matt Wolfe was referred to as the “24th Ward leader.” He is the 27th Ward leader.

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2 Responses to POLS ONTHE STREET: And They’re Off! Candidates Seize Clipboards

  1. Councilman D Clarke DOES NOT represent the fourth councilmanic district. That seat is currently held by Curtis Jones.

    Scott Righter
    February 26, 2019 at 1:04 am

  2. Thank you for catching this error, Scott. It has been corrected online.

    –Tony West
    Managing Editor

    editor @pr
    March 21, 2019 at 6:27 pm

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