POLS ON THE STREET: Brooks Win Sends Statewide Shock Waves

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KENDRA BROOKS won as a third-party Working Families candidate, wresting a minority-party seat away from Republicans. Campaign manager Arielle Klagsbrun gave her candidate a big hug at Brooks’s victory party at New Barber’s Hall in North Central. Kendra proclaimed, “They said a Black single mom from North Philly wasn’t the right person, but we have shown them that we are bigger than them.” Photo by Melissa Dodd

The victory of Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks in the at-Large City Council race will upend the traditional bipartisan organization of Philadelphia City Council – or at least make it irrelevant.

Now that there are not one, but two minority parties, does that mean there will be two minority chairs? Will Brooks be her own chair? Will she whip herself?

In practical actions, the addition of four newcomers to the 17-member Council promises a risk of uncertainty to the usually clockwork management of Council President Darrell Clarke. The Working Families Party’s strong showing, backed by several defectors from Democratic City Committee, could find a mirror in Room 400 if progressive rebels form a bloc that confronts DCC loyalists on key issues.

The first arena of conflict is already in play. Several incumbent Council members are jockeying for changes in majority job titles. (See “Everyday People” in Featured News.) Normally these calls are made by the president and simply reflect whom he likes at the time. But many incumbents are eyeing a mayoral run in 2023 and may be inclined to play hardball. By tradition, incoming freshmen stay out of this fight; but will all three new Dems resist the temptation to pick sides?

IN TOWN to announce a statewide grant of $10 million to support early childhood education, Gov. Tom Wolf visited the Parent Infant Center in West Philadelphia to confer with some of his younger constituents. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Observers are betting that the current team will stay settled in the end, because Clarke dislikes uncertainty. But they aren’t betting a lot.

Meehan Topples; Oh Left Standing in GOP

Tuesday night, Mike Meehan stepped down as chairman of Republican City Committee, a post he had inherited from his father and grandfather. It was a realistic step, given the crushing setbacks Republicans suffered not just here in Philadelphia but across Southeastern Pennsylvania in the November election.

City Republicans have for a decade or more been embroiled in internecine wars between two factions: one centered in the bluecollar Northeast and the other gravitating toward Center City professionals, with others scrambling either to make nice with both sides or to avoid getting run over by any.

ELECTED OFFICIALS swarmed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square to pay homage. The official City of Philadelphia ceremony was attended by, L-R, State Sen. Art Haywood; State Rep. Danilo Burgos; City Commissioner Lisa Deeley; DA Larry Krasner; Veterans Advisory Commission Director Carlo Aragoncillo, State Rep. Mary Isaacson; Congressman Dwight Evans and State Rep. Joe Hohenstein. Photo by Joe Stivala

That era is probably over, although the participants may not have fully grasped it yet.

RCC met Tuesday to form a new leadership team – not easy in a party increasingly strapped for players, influence and resources. (See “Elephant Corner” in Featured News) But the winners’ work is cut out for them and they know it.

Given their current depleted voter rolls, city Republicans are teetering on the verge of being reclassified as an irrelevant third party. Their chief remaining edge is their ability to deal with statewide Republicans, who reign in the General Assembly, which the City-County of Philadelphia needs for vital reasons.

But statewide Republicans expect something in return. That something is to hold down the Democratic margin surging out of Philadelphia in statewide contests. To do so, RCC must become effective at vote-getting rather than ideological purity.

A FRANKFORD High School ROTC cadet joins Councilman David Oh, R, as members of the Richard Vaux, Ivanhoe Masonic lodge law a wreath and salute the fallen at the Korea Memorial. Philly Record’s John Kline, 2nd from R, and Joe Stivala are lodge members. Photo by Joe Stivala

And its only competitive citywide vote-getter is Councilman David Oh (at Large).

Oh is unpopular with his Democratic colleagues, whom he often assails and who often thwart his bills. He is also unpopular with conservative Republicans, who accuse him of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only). He is, however, popular enough with Philadelphia voters to win elections.

Political consultant David Lynn notes that of the four other GOP at-large wannabes, Dan Tinney and Al Taubenberger “were said to be strong in Northeast Philadelphia. It appears as though their strategy was to run up a commanding lead in the Northeast Wards and make it impossible for the other candidates to catch up. But although Taubenberger and Tinney came in first and second in the Northeast, Oh ran a close third.

STATE SEN. Sharif Street saluted Gold Star Mothers who strive to keep the memory of their fallen military sons and daughters alive by helping veterans. Special thanks from the Philadelphia Public Record! Photo by Joe Stivala

“Oh’s victory suggests that, in order to win as a Republican citywide, one needs Democratic allies. Additionally, the idea that a Republican – or any other candidate – can win by simply doing well in Northeast Philadelphia appears to be false,” Lynn pointed out.

An important stronghold of Oh lies in the Latino areas of Kensington and the Lower Northeast, where he led the at-large minority vote. In general, he is good at outreach to nonwhite ethnics.

Progressives should note that Oh was not alone in his Latino appeal. While Brooks easily topped the at-large Republican pack outside the Northeast, Far South Philadelphia and Roxborough, the Working Families ticket underperformed all Republicans in the Barrio. It appears the progressive insurgents’ agenda has not yet been well translated into Spanish.

Big New Team Recruited for Register of Wills

Tracey Gordon, the incoming register of wills for Philadelphia County, announced a team of 23 to assist her through the transition into becoming the head of the office, which oversees the probate of wills and handles transfer of assets, among other tasks.

The transition team will be co-chaired by Andrea Custis, president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia, and Michael Bowman, Esq. from Impact Law & Strategy.

“We have a good deal of hard work on our plate in order to bring about the change that the Register of Wills Office needs in order to better serve Philadelphians in need,” said Gordon. “I have total trust in Andrea, Michael and the rest of the team to lead this effort. Together, we can deliver on the mandate for change from voters and improve how we handle the transfer of millions of dollars in generational wealth.”

The remainder of the transition team includes 21 other leaders:
• Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District)
• Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District)
• Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District)
• State Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-Kensington)
• State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.)
• Emma Chappell, founder, United Bank of Philadelphia
• Joann Bell, director, Philadelphia Government Office – Pugliese Associates
• Sharon Wilson, Esq., founder, Wilson Law Offices
• Craig Levin, Esq., civil trial lawyer
• Barbara Chavous, CEO, Somerset Academy Early Learning Center
• Keasha Trawick, Gordon campaign staffer
• Regina Hairston, senior associate, Bellevue Strategies
• Mark Wilson, Gordon campaign staffer
• Thomas Campion, liaison, Northeast Democratic Club Coalition
• Gary Freedman, partner, Freedman & Grinshpun, PC
• Ronald Holt, former Montgomery County register of wills
• Mustafa Rashed, president and CEO, Bellevue Strategies
• Robert Archie, Esq., partner, Duane Morris
• Rasheen Crews, Gordon campaign staffer
• David Dix, Co-founder, chairman & CEO, Luminous Strategies
• Ryan Boyer, business manager, Laborers’ District Council.

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