Mayoral race heats up as Democratic primary nears
With May’s Democratic primary fewer than 50 days away, and less than three weeks remaining to register to vote, the 2007 mayoral election is a hot topic in Philadelphia. The city has not elected a Republican candidate as mayor since 1951, and that is not likely to change this year. In fact, in the March 22-28 issue of City Paper, registered Republican William J. O’Brien encourages his fellow party members to switch to Democrats to enable themselves to vote in the upcoming primary.
Philly’s next mayor is expected to be chosen unofficially after the May 15 primary, although Republican candidate and city businessman Al Taubenberger might beg to differ. Regardless, the five Democratic candidates will campaign heavily over the next few weeks in order to make their voices heard.
Bob Brady Challenged
The mayoral election has dominated news coverage over the past few weeks. U.S. Representative Bob Brady testified before a Luzerne County judge to decide the fate of his campaign. Brady’s place on the ballot was challenged by businessman Tom Knox and State Representative Dwight Evans due to apparent omissions on Brady’s financial disclosure form.
Knox and Evans both accused Brady of failing to report city pension income he receives from the city’s carpenters’ union. According to the Inquirer, the carpenters’ union contributes 140 hours worth of payment to Brady’s pension for work that Brady does not do. Brady’s team first claimed the omission was an accident, but reneged to say that the omission was done purposely.
The campaign was on hold as a decision was made. Those involved have stated that they expect an appeal and that the case might go all the way to the State Supreme Court.
Judge Patrick J. Toole ruled Tuesday, March 27 that Brady can stay in the race despite the omission. He stated that the data that was left off of Brady’s form was minor and the issue can easily be fixed with an additional filing.
Brady and CCP
Brady has also received praise from the media for his involvement in ending the Community College of Philadelphia’s recent strike. Negotiators finally reached an agreement between the college and its staff. Classes at CCP resumed Tuesday, March 27 after two weeks on strike.
Brady’s work included making phone calls and talking to both sides during the negotiation process. He negotiated an $480,000 pledge from Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell that would make up some of the difference between the money the striking teachers were asking for and the money the college was offering. Brady’s connections within City Council and in the larger Pennsylvania government provide him with influence over some council actions and allow him to work closely with City Council to get things done.
Brady has sometimes been criticized for being too much of a Philadelphia political insider – it is possible to use that same influence for personal gain rather than the good of the city – but in the case of the tentative agreement reached between CCP and its staff, most would agree that Brady has used his influence appropriately.
Criticism for Chaka
Fattah has been the subject of several negative articles lately, despite his place as a frontrunner. According to the Inquirer, Fattah has missed more Congressional votes in his tenure in the House than any other Philadelphia representative. His average votes missed since the 105th Congress in 1997 has been 9.2 percent. The House average for all members during the same period is only 4.2 percent.
Fattah has also been criticized for not releasing his income tax return. He stated that he cannot, as he files jointly with wife Renee Chenault-Fattah, an NBC 10 anchorwoman whose contract prevents her from revealing her salary to the public.
Over the weekend, Fattah did receive positive coverage when he stated that he counts education as his number one priority. All of the Democratic candidates have named education as a top issue, and education advocates are hopeful that the rhetoric will turn out to be more than just lip service. With a $37 million deficit this year, the School District of Philadelphia faces many challenges over the next few years and will need the mayor’s support.
Endorsements for Evans
Although Brady won the endorsement from the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, Evans has accepted an endorsement from the Guardian Civic League, which is the local chapter of the National Black Police Association. Although the Guardian Civic League has only 1,400 members compared to the FOP’s 14,000-member chapter, the endorsement is important for Evans.
Two additional African-American police organizations have offered endorsements to Evans – Cops and Citizens for Justice and the Sentinels of Law Enforcement. With these three new endorsements Evans is back in the news after dwindling coverage since his initial announcement of his campaign.
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