2017 May 16th Election Insights & Recommendations

The election last fall made most of us sick, shook our faith in our country, and made us question the decency of many of our fellow Americans. With that said, we don’t get what happened in November if people are informed and engaged citizens. That starts at the local and state level. That’s where most of the real shit – good and bad – happens. So please read this article, but also seek out other opinions to help you follow issues and form opinions to perform your civic duty to vote.

As usual for primary recommendations, this guide will only cover the Democratic side, largely for the reason that there are rarely, if ever, any competitive Republican races in Philadelphia.
This is yet another election that screams for a non-partisan primary since there is such a Democratic to Republican imbalance in candidates and voters, but we’re stuck with the system we’ve got.

It will also be a low turnout election, so the good news: your vote counts even more.

Here we go:

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ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, MAY 16
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Justice of the Supreme Court – don’t bother
Dwayne Woodruff is the only Democrat on the ballot. Woodruff is “Recommended” by the state bar.

Judge of the Superior Court (vote for not more than 4) –
#2 Carolyn H. Nichols
#3 Geoff Moulton
#4 Maria McLaughlin
#5 Debbie Kunselman

Moulton and and Kunselman are both “Highly Recommended” by the PA bar. Nichols and Maria McLaughlin are “Recommended”. #6 Bill Caye is rated as “Unrecommended”, so the recommendation is to vote for the other 4 to avoid him.

Judge of the Commonwealth Court (vote for not more than 2) –
#8 Joe Cosgrove

Vote for fewer to make your single vote stronger since Joe Cosgrove is the only candidate rated as “Highly Recommended” by the state bar.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas (vote for not more than 9)-
#27 Deborah Canty
#29 Wendi Barish
#30 Leonard Deutchman
#31 Zac Shaffer
#32 Jennifer Schultz
#35 Jon Marshall
#36 David Conroy
#37 Mark J. Moore
#40 Lucretia C. Clemons

These are the 9 judges with the worst ballot position who are also “Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association. In a race like this with so many candidates and so little information, the candidates with the best ballot position – top left – tend to win, regardless of their merits. Selecting these based on position is an effort to undo that in a very small way.

Many of the candidates with poor ballot position are also “not recommended”, so we as a city luck out this time.

Judge of the Municipal Court (vote for not more than 2)-
#46 George Twardy
#48 Jon Marshall

Same system as above with the Court of Common Pleas.

District Attorney-

The DA race is where all of the interest and money is. Check out this map showing candidate support by ward. For those who know the city and a bit about its politics, this yeoman work is fascinating on so many levels.
Clearly, there’s no favorite. (Your vote matters!)

Additionally, this is a classic case where Ranked Choice Voting is eminently sensible.

Running down the candidates:
If you are a progressive purist, Larry Krasner is going to be your guy. He has tons of experience fighting the good fight for civil rights as a career defense attorney. The problem is that he has zero prosecutorial experience (that’s what the DA office does, prosecute people), and zero management experience (the DA runs the office of local prosecutors). It’s a giant kick in the nuts to the entire DA’s office to have a career defense attorney running the place.

“They’re all worried about it,” said A.J. Thomson, a former assistant district attorney who was fired amid a controversy over the office’s handling of a cop who had admitted to committing perjury. People running the office, he said, “will fear someone who’s not on that team getting in there and saying whoa, whoa, whoa… what’s going on here?”

He hopes either Krasner or Joe Khan, a former city and federal prosecutor in the race, will win and “look at the office and give it the enema that it needs.”
~ The Nation

(This article with further background on the perjury case mentioned above gives some perspective of how much reform may be needed in the DA’s office)

If you’re looking for a smart progressive with loads of prosecutorial experience who will reinvigorate the DA’s office, Joe Khan is your candidate. Khan isn’t going to blow up the DA’s office like Larry Krasner might, but instead brings new ideas and decades of experience from the Philly DA’s and US Attorney’s office.

Here is an article comparing the Larry Krasner and Joe Khan (as well as the other candidates) with excerpts from phone interviews with both of them.

If you’re looking for management experience, Rich Negrin has it. He’s a former Assistant District Attorney and Managing Director for the city under Mayor Nutter. The MD had a lot less power under Nutter than other mayors, but the managing director is still the one who makes the city run on a day-to-day basis. On a left-right political spectrum, Negrin is probably the closest to a centrist on the Democratic side. He also has the endorsement of every police organization in the city. If we want to hold police accountable and to a higher standard of ethics, then this counts against him as a candidate. Both the Khan and Krasner campaigns responded with criticism for the Philadelphia Police Union’s endorsement of Negrin.

It should be noted that the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Trump in the 2016 election.

If you’re looking for a wonky technocrat, Michael Untermeyer is your guy. He’s a serial candidate for political office who has bounced around between being a Republican and a Democrat. He has been funding his own campaign…

If you’re looking for a bright, young, Kennedy-esque candidate, Jack O’Neill is your guy. He has impressed in forums, but is still relatively inexperienced, especially in managing an office like the DA’s. O’Neill is also owned by Johnny Doc and the building trades, so keep that context in mind.

If you’re looking for a tax deadbeat, a shady past, and a history of financial mismanagement, Tariq El-Shabazz is your guy. It’s even more relevant when you see the main reason for federally indicted and current DA Seth Williams’ downfall was money mismanagement. We can do better.

If you’re looking for a judge who described the rape of a prostitute as a “theft of services”, Teresa Carr Deni is your candidate. The judge has been a non-entity in this race.

If you’re a Republican, Beth Grossman is your candidate. Grossman’s passion and command of the issues in the forums has been impressive.

Controller-
#61 Rebecca Rynhart

Alan Butkovitz is going to win this race. He’s the long-time incumbent, ward leader, party favorite, and his office’s staff is top-notch and full of smart people. Butkovitz seems to take personal pleasure from pissing off other elected officials, and that’s really the job of the Controller.
A vote for Rynhart is basically to encourage, smart, qualified people to continue running for office. Rynhart is immensely capable of being the city Controller and has tons of financial auditing experience in the private sector as well as being City Treasurer and Budget Director under Mayor Nutter.

Judge of Election-
This is for your hyper-local voting district boss. You’re on your own for this.

Inspector of Election-
This is for your hyper-local voting district’s underboss. You’re also on your own for this.

Questions-
Proposed Charter Change Question #1-
“Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to allow for the award of certain contracts based on best value to the City?”

YES

The current system awards the contract to the “lowest responsible bidder”. Most other major cities use a version of this “best value” system. Changing the system for *some but not all* contracts allows the city greater flexibility, and can offer taxpayers just what the question says – better value.

Proposed Charter Change Question #2-
“Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for the creation of a Philadelphia Community Reinvestment Commission to be charged with recommending coordinated community reinvestment strategies for the City of Philadelphia by identifying opportunities for public, private, and philanthropic entities to collaborate and leverage their resources for the public good?”

NO

This was proposed by City Council President Darrell Clarke and will be yet another way for council to rubberstamp or block development to their liking. We also don’t need more advisory bodies like this enshrined in the city’s constitution.

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Further reading
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Cheat Sheet:
Justice of the Supreme Court – no one
Superior Court Judge-
#2 Carolyn H. Nichols
#3 Geoff Moulton
#4 Maria McLaughlin
#5 Debbie Kunselman
Commonwealth Court Judge- #8 Joe Cosgrove
Common Pleas Judge-
#27 Deborah Canty
#29 Wendi Barish
#30 Leonard Deutchman
#31 Zac Shaffer
#32 Jennifer Schultz
#35 Jon Marshall
#36 David Conroy
#37 Mark J. Moore
#40 Lucretia C. Clemons
Municipal Court Judge-
#46 George Twardy
#48 Jon Marshall
District Attorney- #54 Joe Khan or #57 Larry Krasner
Controller- #61 Rebecca Rynhart
Judge of Election- up to you (local)
Inspector of Election- up to you (local)
Question #1- yes
Question #2- no