The three Democratic candidates for Philadelphia city controller faced off Friday in their final debate of the campaign, an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Committee of Seventy. It was taped at the studios of Channel 6, and will be aired on the station’s “Inside Edition” program at 11:30 Sunday morning.
UPDATE: You can see the debate here.
If you’re new to this donnybrook, the controller is the city’s elected government watchdog. Two challengers, Brett Mandel and Mark Zecca, have spent the campaign hammering two-term incumbent Alan Butkovitz.
The debate was very ably moderated by Tamala Edwards. In the audio above, you can hear an interesting segment in which she asks about a meeting of Butkovitz and challenger Mandel last year.
Here’s a sampling of the encounter summarizing each candidate’s core message:
Zecca said the city lacks rigorous financial controls, which Butkovitz should have insisted upon.
“He’s been in there for eight years,” Zecca said. “He should have been screaming from rooftops to establish those internal controls. It’s not enough to publish a million reports. They’re all ignored, because he’s a lapdog, he’s not a tough dog.”
Mandel, who ran against Butkovitz four years ago, promised reform.
“Right now, the controller’s not doing his job. He’s looking for another job. He wants to run for mayor in a few years and leave us high and dry,” Mandel said. “And worse, he’s doing a job on us. He’s using our public money as his private political piggy-bank. If you elect me on May21, I will be your budget bulldog.”
Butkovitz responded that it’s too early to decide about running for mayor, and he rejected the charge that he’s used his office for political gain. He said he’s been tough, independent, and effective.
“We have turned the city controller’s office into the leading anti-corruption agency in Philadelphia, finding tens of millions of dollars of corrupt practices in the sheriff’s office, being the foundation for a federal indictment of charter schools,”Butkovitz said. “The thing that they use against me is that our record is so extensive it would take me an hour here to read those things. And they, with a wave of a hand, can pretend nothing’s happening.”
The Democratic primary is May 21.