Bill Green for Congress?

Bill Green is exploring a run for Congress.  (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Bill Green is exploring a run for Congress. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Former Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green is taking the first step towards challenging U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle in the May 15 Democratic primary.

Green acknowledged in a brief telephone interview that nominating petitions are circulating to place his name on the primary ballot for the 2nd Congressional District, one of the new seats created by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order. It includes much of Philadelphia east of Broad Street.

Green declined to say what role he’s playing in the petition drive. “I don’t want to say anything else at this point,” he said.

Green has some name recognition from his two winning City Council races, and his family represents something of a Democratic dynasty in Philadelphia. His grandfather, William Green, Jr., was a longtime chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, and he represented a northeast Philadelphia Congressional seat from 1948 until his death in 1963.

Green’s father, William Green III, was mayor of Philadelphia from 1980-84 and also represented Philadelphia in Congress  from 1963 to 1976.

“That name goes back a long time. There’s a long history there,” said Michael McAleer, Democratic leader of Ward 66-B in far northeast Philadelphia.

But taking on Boyle would be a tough challenge, said Democratic strategist Brendan McPhillips.

“Congressman Boyle is well established and well liked in the district,” McPhillips said. “He has a good ground operation he’s kept active.”

Money talks

Boyle also has the advantage of a healthy campaign war chest. Federal reports show he had $795,000 on hand as of Jan. 1. Boyle’s media consultant, Ken Snyder, said fundraising since then has left the campaign with about $1 million.

Boyle has also enjoyed a close relationship with building trades unions, who spent generously to help him when he won his congressional seat in 2014.

The district Boyle won included areas of northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County. The new map split his old seat, creating a Montgomery County district and the new 2nd District in Philadelphia. Boyle decided to run in Philadelphia, where he lives.

Green would have to raise money in a hurry for the May 15 primary, which less than 11 weeks away. And because it’s a Congressional race, his contributions would be subject to federal limits of $2,700 per individual.

A Philly dogfight?

One thing that could benefit Green is factional strife among northeast Philadelphia ward leaders.

McAleer, for example, was among a group of ward leaders who supported state Sen. John Sabatina, Jr., in his hard-fought and narrow win over state Rep. Kevin Boyle, Congressman Boyle’s brother, in an election in 2016.

McAleer, who works in Sabatina’s office, said he thinks Green would make a better candidate than Boyle.

(Sabatina considered entering the congressional race himself, but said in a phone interview that he won’t do it this year.)

McPhillips said the ward leaders are a factor, but with “every passing year, they’re diminishing in their influence in most places.”

Boyle’s supporters say Green’s record on the School Reform Commission could be a problem for union leaders in the race. Green has clashed with leaders of the teachers’ union over a number of school district issues.

“There’s a race to run, and Brendan takes every challenge seriously,” Snyder said, “but I don’t think we could ask for a better match-up.”

Former bank executive Michele Lawrence is also an announced Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District.

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