Hey Philly (and a few outside) voters-
For most of my Philly election guides, I offer up an overriding theme, message, takeaway, etc. that helps frame the election. Long time readers (most of you) know what I’m talking about. There’s talk of the increasing partisanship divide in all kinds of politics, but what really strikes me is the increasing nationalization of local races. Contests that were typically about who could provide better constituent services, or who was more “authentic”, are now increasingly policy and hot-button issue type races. Now, different doesn’t mean bad. It’s refreshing to add depth and substance to races, but it doesn’t change the fact that running local government is far more often about the mundane issues of collecting taxes, reforming bureaucracy, and just make sure things run relatively smoothly.
Also of note this election is that there will be new voting machines. I’ve yet to see them personally, but I can tell you the format and process will be different and add a slip of paper into mix.
And bring your pens for your own write-in candidates. There are a lot of uncontested races.So here’s the latest edition of my Election Recommendations…
ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5
Starting from the top left of the ballot as you see it in the voting both, here we go:
Judge of the Superior Court (Vote for not more than 2) – #102 Daniel D McCaffery – He’s the only “Highly Recommended” candidate by the PA Bar, while the 2 Republicans are Recommended, and the other Democrat is Not Recommended.
Judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Vote for not more than 7) – #104 Anthony Kyriakakis Highly Recommended #106 Tiffany Palmer Highly Recommended #107 James C. Crumlish Highly Recommended These races essentially don’t matter since the 7 Democratic judges are running unopposed, but I still plan to vote for the 3 highly recommended judges. This was the first time in my memory, but primary voters and the Democratic city committee actually did a pretty good job of picking the better judges and weeding out the poorly rated ones back in May, so we’ve got some pretty well regarded judges who’ll be shoe-ins in this time.
Judge of the Municipal Court – No one David H Conroy is unopposed, and he’s Recommended by the bar, but without that “Highly” stamp, I’ll sit this one out.
Mayor – #111 Jim Kenney This might be my shortest mayoral writeup ever. Kenney will win. He’s done ok. He’s far better than the Republican guy. Pretty simple.
City Commissioners (Vote for not more than 2) – No one. Even though you can only vote for 2, there are total of 3 commissioner seats. Hey, at least the guy who doesn’t show up to work, Anthony Clark, decided not to run. But don’t worry, like all good (bad) Philly pols, he’ll be taking his massive DROP payment as he walks out the door.
In the past, I was a huge fan of Al Schmidt, the Republican in the race. Despite the fact that he was technically in the “minority” since the other two Commissioners were Democrats, he essentially runs the office. However, there was some extreme funny business with the purchase of the new voting machines, where the contract went to the firm that had the inferior (and less secure) technology, yet showered the most money in political donations and miraculously won the contract. I’m still trying to get all the info on what was going on in that office.
Register of Wills – No one Quite possibly the upset of the primary, 10-term incumbent Ron Donatucci went down to serial candidate Tracey Gordon. I don’t think anyone expected that result. Since her victory, Gordon has largely stayed quiet, especially since a super shady political operative has been going around claiming that he’ll be Gordon’s chief of staff when she takes office. One to watch….
Sheriff – No one The good news is that incumbent sheriff and serial sexual harasser lost the primary. The meh news is that Rochelle Bilal, the winner, is running unopposed in the general election. I know you’re getting tired of me and other good government types saying this, but we need to get rid of these offices and fold them into the rest of city government.
Council At Large (vote for not more than 5)- #117 Allan Domb, #119 Derek S Green, #616 Steve Cherniavsky, #716 Kendra Brooks
Real talk: there are seven at-large council seats. You get to vote for only five (I’m voting for 4). The five Democrats will win. That means two non-Democrats will win. For generations, this has meant two Republicans will win. In the last several years, Republicans have fled the city and they’re now an endangered species largely extant to Northeast Philly and a few pockets of South Philly. There simply aren’t enough Rs to go around to guarantee that they’ll pick up those last two spots, so all sorts of independent candidates are circling.
The most interesting candidates are the Working Families party candidates. For one, they’re running as a “ticket”, which is fairly unusual (but probably a good idea). They’ve also raised gobs of money. On a political spectrum, they’re also to the left of everyone on council except for maybe Helen Gym, and of that I’m not even certain. Indeed they are very much tapping into the same energy and politics that have driven the success of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over the last several years.
There are a lot of things to like about the Working Families candidates, Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke. The first is that they’re thumbing their nose at the Democratic machine, and causing a bit of mayhem with elected Democrats supporting these candidates not running under the “D” banner. Gotta love that.
They’re also for smart urbanism, sustainability, public election financing, and against councilmanic prerogative where each district councilperson is the “mini-mayor” with absolute veto power over any development decisions in their district.
Brooks and O’Rourke have gone out of their way to make their message to voters: “Republicans in city government ruin our city”. The thing is, it’s not true. Because there are so few Republican voters, there’s a dearth of Republican leaders in city government. If you want to point fingers, point them at Council Prez Darrell Clarke or outgoing West Philly councilwoman Jannie Blackwell for perpetuating the outsized role of city councilmembers in the day-to-day running of the city. In reality, the problem with Philly government isn’t Republicans. It’s Democrats who’d rather make sure their personal (in)action is more important than creating smart policies and a functioning city. It’s easy to say you’ll tax rich people and businesses, but much harder to create a desirable city environment and level playing field that residents and businesses want to be a part of.
It also leads to some of the problems with Brooks and O’Rourke. To pick an example, one of their pet issues is the rising cost of housing. An important issue no doubt, but one that should be solved by smart policy. Their headline solution is rent control, a policy that leads to lower quality housing, (paradoxically) higher rents, and benefits that mostly go to upper middle class white people. It’s such a Philly approach to look at the symptom instead of the addressing underlying problem: there’s not enough quality affordable housing. Econ 101.
The city is sitting on mountains of vacant land; sell it to those who will build more housing. The city has far more industrially zoned land than it knows what to do with; rezone it to allow multi-family housing. Real fixes to city issues usually aren’t sexy. But they do require reform and changes to the system that many don’t choose to undertake.
But back to the election at hand. It’s highly likely that Dan Tinney, a Republican with lots of building trade union (read: suburban white dudes) backing from Ds and Rs, and will take another one of the seats. That leaves one spot up for grabs.
Steve Cherniavsky, from the Term Limits Philadelphia party is actually a great choice, but he’s not going to win. I still support his vision of a sane, responsible, and humane government, but I won’t vote for him to the exclusion of others who can and will actually win.
I really tried hard to find a Republican to vote for, including David Oh who I’ve supported in the past. All of the Republicans had far too many deal-breaker issues, and the incumbent Oh just hasn’t done enough to justify support.
And that leads us back to Brooks and O’Rourke. Kendra Brooks seems to be the slightly stronger of the two candidates – more money raised, more endorsements, slightly better ballot position, so I’ll reluctantly vote for her to avoid one of the other Republicans.
To round out my explanations, I always support Domb because he’s the only city councilperson watching the city’s finances and attempting to reclaim money from tax deadbeats, while Derek Green is council’s biggest champion for sustainability issues.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only one around endorsing this mixed bag of candidates for council at large.
District Council – no one, except District 3 – #121 Jamie Gauthier, District 6 – #221 Pete Smith, District 10 – #121 Judy Moore
Most district councilpersons are running unopposed, but the biggest race is happening in the Far Northeast where Democrat Judy Moore is looking to unseat longtime incumbent Brian O’Neill whose platform is to keep his district stuck in the 1950s.
In West Philly, I’m going to break one of my rules and urge a vote for an unopposed candidate. With Jannie Blackwell finally deposed, let’s vote the hell out of Jamie Gauthier to show our appreciation.
In the Lower Northeast 6th District, I don’t even care what Republican Pete Smith’s agenda is. Do not vote for Johnny Doc gopher and federally indicted councilman Bobby Henon.
Judicial Retentions – skip There are no judges to get rid of since the Pennsylvania Bar and the Philadelphia Bar say all of the candidates are recommended for retention. These votes aren’t as bad as the votes for new judges, but we still shouldn’t be voting for them.
Proposed Constitution Amendment Crime Victim Rights
“Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to grant certain rights to crime victims, including to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; considering their safety in bail proceedings; timely notice and opportunity to take part in public proceedings; reasonable protection from the accused; right to refuse discovery requests made by the accused; restitution and return of property; proceedings free from delay; and to be informed of these rights, so they can enforce them?”
This is that Marsy’s Law that you may have heard about, and basically, it’s a trick question. This places into the PA constitution the rights of victims that protected elsewhere in state law, but goes further to deny the accused many of their own constitutionally protected rights. Versions of this law/amendment have been enacted in other states that have now backtracked because of the negative knock-on consequences. Both the ACLU and the League of Women Voters oppose the amendment.
Proposed Charter Change Question – “Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise City Procurement procedures by increasing the sealed bidding threshold; by providing for procurement from local businesses; and by providing for Procurement Department regulations?”
Right now the limit is $34,000, and this raises the limit to $75,000 to cut the red tape and make it easier for small and minority owned businesses to work with the city.
Proposed City Bond Question – “Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ($185,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: transit; streets and sanitation; municipal buildings; parks, recreation and museums; and economic and community development?”
These are routine and allow the city to function.************************* Cheat Sheet: -Judge of the Superior Court – #102 Daniel D McCaffery -Judge of the Court of Common Pleas – #104 Anthony Kyriakakis, #106 Tiffany Palmer, #107 James C. Crumlish -Judge of the Municipal Court – no one -Mayor – #111 Jim Kenney -City Commissioners – no one -Register of Wills – no one -Sheriff – no one -Council At Large – #117 Allen Domb, #119 Derek Green, #616 Steve Cherniavsky, #716 Kendra Brooks -District Council – District 3: #121 Jamie Gauthier; District 6: #221 Pete Smith, District 10: #121 Judy Moore; Others: no one -Judicial Retention- skip -Ballot Questions- Proposed Constitutional Amendment (Crime Victims Rights) – “No” Proposed Charter Change Question – “Yes” Proposed City Bond Question – “Yes”