POLS ON THE STREET: Will Indies Catch Fire? Dems, GOP Steam

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IT WAS a big day for Philadelphia and the entire region as the ribbon was cut at Southport for the second auto terminal – a major boost to our economy. L-R, Jimmy Durr, general manager, Glovis America; JinWoo Jeong, president and CEO, Glovis; Gov. Tom Wolf; Jerry Sweeney, PhilaPort Board chairman; State Sen. Larry Farnese; and Scott Cornell, COO, Glovis America. Photo by Wendell Douglas

BY JOE SHAHEELI
The first independent to make a serious, professionally planned run for City Council at Large was Andrew Stober in 2015. A “moderate progressive,” if there is such a thing, an experienced nonprofit manager, Stober raised in excess of $100,000 yet still fell well below the Republican at-large ticket.

After his race, Stober opined that a progressive independent, not aligned with Democratic City Committee, needed at least $200,000 to do the job he couldn’t do.

In 2019, Kendra Brooks of the Working Families Party, and possibly her running mate Rev. Nicholas O’Rourke as well, claim to have reached the target Stober had set for them. In addition, “independent” voter registration has been growing dynamically in Philadelphia in recent decades; these are voters neither city major-party organization is practiced in targeting because neither party really needed their votes in municipal elections.

AT THE NABLEO (National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers) Scholarship Luncheon in the Embassy Suites Airport Hotel, Children of Courage Scholarship Award Winners were announced. L-R were Rochelle Bilal of Guardian Civic League, host of the event; Dr. DeLacy Davis of NABLEO, keynote speaker; Wanda Davis, mother of scholarship winner; Elijah Khalil Davis, scholarship Winner; and Charles P. Wilson, NABLEO chairman. Photo by Leona Dixon

So is this the year the independent progressives break through at the ballot box? That’s what all the political pros are asking on the eve of the Nov. 5 election.

Brooks, like a good candidate, is doing big things with her money. Sensibly betting on a social-media investment, she just released a video. “There is a disconnect between what’s happening in our neighborhoods, and who’s sitting in City Hall,” she says in it. “Working people like me need to be in the room making policies for us.” Brooks bills herself “as a mother, a successful small business owner, and as an activist.” Brooks has also bought radio time.

The Working Families Party has exposed deep fissures in the City Democratic Party by harvesting endorsements from defiant party progressives like Councilmember Helen Gym (at Large); State Sen. Art Haywood (D-Northwest); and State Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler, Chris Rabb, Malcolm Kenyatta, Brian Sims and Movita Johnson-Harrell. She has also been scooping up kisses from out-of-towners, the most famous of whom is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom you may have seen on the “Rachel Maddow Show” now and then. But smaller fry like recently elected young State Reps. Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee (D- both D-Allegheny) have chimed in their generational support.

A NATIONAL Service Opportunity Fair was staged at Liacouras Center by Congressman Dwight Evans, showing students career paths in public and community service. Photos by Wendell Douglas

Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady has pushed back hard against these defections. The party used its own Facebook page to warn that “Party rules state that any Committee Person who backs a non Democrat in the general election shall lose his membership in the said Committee.”

In some parts of the city, money is no object to a volunteer ward leader or committee person. But in many areas, political money does not grow on trees. Observers are predicting that independent progressive breakthroughs inside organized Democrats will closely reflect the affluence of their respective neighborhoods. (And when the affluent vote is so big in Philadelphia that it carries the city, we should all rejoice!)

CURRAN’S Irish Inn was scene of a well-attended Democratic pre-election get-together. L-R were DCC Chairman Bob Brady, Local 177 President Mark Roe, Jack Roe, judicial candidate Carmella Jacquinto, host Ward Leader Shawn Dillon, Teamsters Local 830 Business Manager Danny Grace and Ward Leader Brian Eddis. Photo by Harry Leech

So Democratic Party operatives on both sides will be glued to the screen next Tuesday to see how the independents fare against both major-party ballots. This is more than an election; it is literally an effort to bag the two-party system in our municipal politics, which dates back hundreds of years.

Democratic Targets Groan over Prog Attacks

The Working Families’ charge ticks off the other two parties’ campaigners in different ways.

The progressives’ footsoldiers have put out the buzz that Democratic Councilmembers Allan Domb and Derek Green are the two Ds to be cut on the at-large Council ballot.

Now Green is using this opposition (denied by a Working Families Party spokesperson) in his fundraising.

STANDING up against bigotry and persecution at the Holocaust Memorial on Ben Franklin Parkway on the anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre were, L-R, Councilmembers Derek Green and Allan Domb, former Councilmember Frank DiCicco and State Sen. Larry Farnese. Photo by Wendell Douglas

“With just over a week until Election Day, I am being targeted by some third-party efforts to elect new minority party representatives to Council.

“Supporters of Working Families Party candidates are reaching out to voters by text message to ask for their support.

“In one exchange, when asked which two Democratic candidates voters should drop from their ballot in order to vote for the two Working Families Party candidates, they named me.

“I am asking Philadelphians for their vote on Nov. 5 because I want to continue my efforts to make Philadelphia a great place to live, work, visit and raise a family by reducing poverty, improving education, reforming our criminal justice system and so much more.”

26TH WARD Democratic Committee person Luigi Borda and 48th Ward Democratic Leader Anton Moore point to their wards as the two talked get out vote at a meet-up in Girard Estate. South Philly voters head to the polls next Tuesday with races for mayor and City Council among those on the ballot.

Look, politics never comes with a fairness warranty. But one would be pressed to name any policy Domb or Green has ever pursued that is not “progressive.”

If these two are being targeted from the left, it is likely because both men are widely respected as competent managers of major businesses – which Philadelphia, with a $5 billion budget, indubitably is.

At the power level, the independent progressive movement in Philadelphia delivered its first knockout when it elected DA Larry Krasner in 2017. It scored significant advances in State-rep races in 2018. And there is significant activity in street protests and actions in many parts of the city.

How far will it advance in 2019? The people with the ringside season tickets are all agog. And they are not necessarily opposed to the young progressive generation.

They do hope, however, that winning progressives have the skills on their team to balance the City’s desires against its books. Who is their Domb, who is their Green – if not Domb and Green?

Meantime, Republicans Duke It out with Each Other

Another potential casualty of the progressive autumn assault is the comity of the Republican Party ticket, which is fragile to begin with in at-large Council races. That’s because, while the Republicans field a five-person at-large slate, everyone knows only the top two will win the seats reserved for the minority. So they’re really running against each other, and everyone knows it although usually no one says it.

THE COMMONWEALTH Club, Pennsylvania’s leading conservative think tank, held an evening event at Ward Leader Mike Cibik’s Queen Village home. State Republican Chairman Lawrence Tabas was a guest speaker. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Not this year. Incumbent Councilman Al Taubenberger (at Large) has lashed out at Ward Leader Matt Wolfe, his ballot-mate, in a venomous social-media war, using words and images that we shall spare our readers.

Core of the material debate, to the extent there is one, is that Wolfe, a West Philadelphia man, tends to adhere to national Republican orthodoxy by tilting against union powers whereas Taubenberger, who hails from the Northeast, is fiercely respectful of union rights.

Taubenberger also took a dig at Wolfe’s son, Ross Wolfe, who is a diligent operative for statewide Republican campaigns in this city. Wolfe is well connected to the State Republican organization, PAGOP.

“Politics can get dirty, and I understand that, but attacking a candidate’s son is reprehensible. Al has kids. I bet he would find it offensive if other campaigns started targeting them for attacks,” stated Wolfe.

Taubenberger had not released a response as we went to press.

Is Johnny Doc Trial Politically Timed?

IBEW Local 98’s powerful leader John Dougherty and his co-defendants, among them Councilmember Bobby Henon (6th District) and IBEW political ace Marita Crawford, are going to trial on Sept. 14, 2020 before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl. They are charged with stealing more than $600,000 from union coffers and using political influence to advance labor policies on the street.

STATE REP. Danilo Burgos began to fuel up for the next election cycle with a funder at Tierra Colombiana in Feltonville. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Prosecutions in any law-enforcement agency are mostly driven by the needs of the investigation but political pressures and calls are inherent in the game. That’s why some observers are asking in the U.S. Department of Justice decision to launch Dougherty’s trial at the outset of the 2020 presidential peak campaign season contained a political calculus.

Theoretically it could cut both ways. Dougherty’s Electricians have been kind to Republicans in jurisdictions where Republicans hold sway. But when national campaigns rule, local loyalties often lose out. A media-rich trial alleging Democratic corruption in Philadelphia in the fall of 2020 could gin up good coverage for Republicans even if Dougherty and his team are ultimately exonerated.

Changing Landscape Buoys Congress Wars

Pennsylvania, like the rest of the nation, is becoming more geographically polarized, according to research by Nick Field of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

GEARING up for the coming election cycle, State Rep. Mary Isaacson held a fundraiser at Cuba Libre in Old City. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Field’s check of party-registration changes confirms that once-Republican suburbs around major cities in Pennsylvania have shifted dramatically toward Democrats. At that same time, rural counties and smaller cities in the hinterland are switching to Republican in droves.

These changes give hope to Republicans who wish to claw back some of their congressional losses in 2018. But they also imperil Republicans lingering in suburban districts around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Two interesting midsized metropolitan areas have stories to tell. One is Lancaster County, where Democrats have been gobbling up new registrations in recent years. That is the exact opposite of its neighbor across the Susquehanna River, York County, very similar demographically and economically, but where Republicans have been racking up huge gains since 2016.

The other area is the Lehigh Valley, where Democrats Susan Wild took retiring Congressman Charlie Dent’s seat in 2018. The Lehigh Valley might seem to fit in with the “Acela Corridor” of Southeastern Pennsylvania – but that’s not how its folks have been registering of late. Republican gains there threaten Wild’s survival.

In statewide races, will these gains aid the GOP ticket next year? The question turns on how much of its registration boost is due to straight-ticket party loyalty and how much is due to love of Donald Trump. We’ve a year to find out.

Trump Bump Found in Parts of Philly

In some Philadelphia neighborhoods, a pro-Trump effect may also be showing up. South Philadelphia Republican mayoral candidate Billy Ciancaglini and his supporters report a substantial boost in Republican registrations in the past few years. The same may also be happening in parts of the Northeast.

The goal of city GOP strategists for 2020 is to match increased turnout by the city’s liberals with increased turnout by its remaining conservatives. We are talking dueling enthusiasms here. Philadelphia Republicans cannot outvote local Democrats but they can still deliver a substantial wallop to the statewide total.

Dem Dismay over Straight-Ticket Loss

Many Democratic Party strategists are grumbling over Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to eliminate straight-party ticket voting, starting in 2020, in exchange for election-security funding long with a rack of measures that should favor overall voter participation.

THE RECENT Democratic Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was not enough for these revelers who celebrated “Mom” Sulman’s (2nd from R) decades of service as a Democratic committeewoman in N.E. Philadelphia. The gathering in Byrne’s included, L-R, Karen Sugarman, political consultant; Janice Sulman, 53rd Ward Leader; William Dolbow, 35th Ward Leader; Mike Boyle, 5th Ward Leader; and Dan Sulman, Board of Revision of Taxes. The Public Record congratulates and thanks “Mom.” Photo courtesy Sugarman Facebook page

At risk are down-ballot Democrats who are traditionally buoyed by straight-party Democratic voters, who outnumber straight-party Republican voters. Without that lever, can they be trained to go below the presidential lever and back crucial statewide candidates for offices that many know little about?

The Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center, a liberal think tank headed by Philadelphia’s Marc Stier, issued a withering analysis of the damage that the loss of straight-ticket voting will do to Democrats next year.

“Our preliminary analysis leaves us concerned that the elimination of straight-ticket voting will lead to fewer votes in down-ballot, and especially state legislative elections in the future,” Stier stated last week. “And that effect is likely to be more dramatic in very high turnout elections, which we are expecting in 2020, and which may come to characterize American politics in the foreseeable future.”

Stier predicted the end of straight-ticket voting would “lead to an average increase in undervotes of 5,781 in highly competitive State Senate elections and 13,968 in highly competitive State House elections; “lead in presidential election years to an average increase in undervotes of 17,903 in highly competitive State Senate elections and 18,568 in highly competitive State House elections; to an average reduction per district of 1,241 votes in State Senate elections and 845 voters in State House elections, numbers that are greater than the margin of victory in one Senate and four House districts per year; to an average reduction per district of 3,378 votes in State Senate elections and 1,197 votes in State House elections, numbers that are greater than the margin of victory in two Senate and seven House districts per year; and possibly lead to a disproportionate reduction in votes from Black and Hispanic people and people with low incomes.”

Implementing this measure will be a challenge for Democratic operatives across the commonwealth. Their party’s organizational skills will be tested over the next 12 months to see if it can rise to challenge and salvage the votes that will otherwise be lost.

Booker Welcomes Stay at Eastern State

Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) took advantage of a unique Philadelphia venue: a panel town hall at historic Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount on the subject of prison reform.

Incarceration and its after-effects are a large issue in Philadelphia’s everyday public life. But Booker was the only one of the marathoners running for the Democratic presidential nomination to show up to court Philly on this subject.

Booker didn’t hesitate to blast his competitors for not showing up: “Where are you? Seriously.”

Shapiro Guns for National Targets

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has never bothered to hide his ambition for office. In whatever public post he has served, he has always reserved the right to bigger dreams in a coming election cycle.

PHILLY Workers’ Solidarity Network picketed the Greyhound terminal in Center City to protest the bus company’s contract to transport detainees of Immigration & Customs Enforcement. Photo by Wendell Douglas

In 2022, he will reach a term limit. What next for him then?

Shapiro has made himself the most-visible Pennsylvania AG on huge national issues in living memory. He has combined with other State AGs to press for a proposed $48-billion opioid settlement with Big Pharma. He is backing an anti-trust investigation of Facebook. He just signed on with 12 other State attorneys general in a letter Monday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urging it to scrap a proposed rollback of an accident prevention rule in light of the latest revelations about the explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery.

All these are reasonable causes. But they all position Shapiro to attract the attention of national liberal media.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) will be up for re-election in 2022. Could Shapiro be contemplating a shot at him then?

Philly Bar Association Rates Judicial Races

The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection & Retention released its candidate ratings ahead of the upcoming Nov. 5 general election. The ratings include candidates running for judicial seats and sitting judges running for retention.

“Our Commission’s nonpartisan judicial ratings are a simple way for voters to make an informed decision in an often ‘low information’ race,” said Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Rochelle M. Fedullo.

The 35-member Commission is independent and nonpartisan, and its ratings are based upon extensive study and thorough investigation by its own 120-member investigative division. The members of the Commission include community leaders, the president judges of the Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court, representatives from the offices of the public defender, district attorney and city solicitor, and representatives from the many diverse legal groups and sections of the Association.

Candidates rated “Highly Recommended” and “Recommended” satisfied a cumulative review of criteria including qualifications such as legal ability, experience, integrity, temperament, community involvement and judgment.

Court of Common Pleas
Highly Recommended: James Crumlish, Anthony G. Kyriakakis,Tiffany Palmer.
Recommended: Carmella Jacquinto, Joshua H. Roberts, Jennifer Schultz.
Not Recommended: Crystal Powell.

Philadelphia Municipal Court
Recommended: David H. Conroy

RETENTION JUDGES
Pennsylvania Superior Court

Recommended: Anne E. Lazarus

Court of Common Pleas
Recommended: Daniel J. Anders, Ida K. Chen, Robert P. Coleman, Roxanne E. Covington, Richard J. Gordon, Glynnis D. Hill, Karen Shreeves-Johns, Diane R. Thompson, Donna M. Woelpper, Sheila A. Woods-Skipper.

Municipal Court
Recommended: Martin S. Coleman, Jacquelyn M. Frazier-Lyde, Henry Lewandowski, Wendy L. Pew and Thomas F. Shields

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