After a bruising primary campaign, Philadelphia’s Democratic City Controller Alan Butkovitz easily won renomination over two-time challenger Brett Mandel and former city attorney Mark Zecca in a low-turnout election.
With over 95 percent of the vote in, Butkovitz held a nearly a two-to-one lead over Mandel (61 percent to 31 percent). Zecca was a distant third with about eight percent.
Butkovitz said last night his lopsided win shows voters understood his record.
“I think they saw that we’ve had major accomplishments, that we’ve had major anti-corruption successes in terms of the sheriff’s office, charter schools, other corruption issues,” Butkovitz said, “that they have an independent financial watchdog who’s looking out for them that can be trusted.”
Turnout was exceptionally light — around eight percent of Democratic voters. Mandel said he wasn’t sure what the results said about voters’ sentiments, but it was disappointing that so few people came to the polls.
“We tried everything we could to connect with voters, through media, through outreach, through one-on-one contact,” Mandel said, “but clearly a lot of people didn’t show up.”
Mandel and Butkovitz both waged well-funded campaigns and traded hard shots in direct mail pieces and, in Mandel’s case, a cable TV ad. Mandel frequently charged that Butkovitz planned to resign the office if elected to run for mayor in 2015.
Butkovitz wouldn’t say last night whether he might run for mayor. He said there are important issues to tackle now, like the school funding crisis.
“In terms of the future politics of the city, I think it’s too early. I think there are a lot of things that are going to have to work themselves out,” Butkovitz said. “But it’s certainly much better to have 61 percent of the vote in this primary than not.”
Zecca’s campaign was largely self-funded. He ran ads in newspapers touting his experience in city government and his central message — that the controller must advocate for tough financial controls on city operations and stop payments for departments that don’t shape up.
In this corner – a Republican ready to fight
In November, Butkovitz will face Republican candidate Terry Tracy, a 31-year old graduate of the Fels School of Government who takes his candidacy seriously.
Tracy said last night city leaders reel from crisis to crisis, and need to make fundamental changes in Philadelphia’s direction.
“I want to spend the next several months talking about big ideas, and offer big policy prescriptions,” Tracy said, “about the education crisis we face, and the poverty crisis we face.”
Tracy knows that he’s starting from scratch in a party that is outnumbered by Democrats by a six-to-one margin.
“I’m not delusional, and I understand the odds,” Tracy said. “But this is going to be a real conversation, and I think the work the Republican party has done to put itself back together will manifest itself as this campaign moves forward.”
The city GOP seems to have recently resolved a bitter factional dispute that has divided the party for the past several years.