Election day in Philly – pols struggle in quiet desperation

    The Old Guard vs. New Guard battle over the board that runs elections in Philadelphia is being fought throughout the city today, and in the polling places I visited in Northeast Philadelphia, it was much-discussed among polling place workers, if not voters.

    Veteran incumbent city commissioner Joe Duda is trying to hang on to his post in the face of an energetic challenge from Al Schmidt, backed by a group of insurgent Republicans known as the Loyal Opposition.

    Schmidt is in alliance with Democratic self-styled reformer Stephanie Singer, and traditional party operatives are more inclined to back Duda. I’ve heard reports of sample ballots being handed out by Democratic operatives that back the Republican Duda. Didn’t see them in the polling places I visited in the 57th and 64th wards.

    UPDATE: Such a ballot was the subject of a court action, described in the paragraph below in the 63rd ward.

    But Al Schmidt literature was in evidence everywhere, including at my polling place in the 59th ward in Germantown.

    One committeewoman I spoke to the 64th ward said Schmidt was her top priority.

    “We need a change,” Linda Branco said. “He’s young, and we need some young Republicans.” Branco’s kind of an emblem of change in the party. She and her husband have been committeepeople for about five years. Until recently, their ward leader was former State House Speaker John Perzel, who pled guilty to corruption charges earlier this year.

    In general, turnout is predictably light, and the competition civil, at least as far as I can tell. Partisans of Republican Councilman Brian O’Neill and Democratic challenger Bill Rubin are as a thick as flies in the 10th district in the Northeast, but I haven’t heard of any fistfights or even arguments.

    The election watchdog group Committee of Seventy reports that a judge in elected court ordered the confiscation of campaign literature being distributed in the 63rd ward (in Northeast Philly, what a surprise) because it lacked the statement of sponsorship required by the election code.

    Council-at-large candidate David Oh has plenty of troops in the field, hoping to win election despite a salvo of attack radio ads and mailers from a political committee associated with electricians’ union chief John Dougherty.

    City Council candidate and veteran State Rep. Dennis O’Brien stopped by the polling place at the Pollack School while I was there and spotted me talking to some operatives handing out literature.

    “Dave Davies! My favorite reporter!” he shouted.

    This guy knows what he’s doing.

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