Electricians union spends big on Philly legislative race

Labor leader John Dougherty (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Labor leader John Dougherty (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, known for big spending on political races, has contributed $112,500 to the state legislative campaign of South Philadelphia candidate J.R. Rowan, according to campaign finance reports.

The sum, which came in two large contributions, is nearly half of the $236,000 Rowan has raised in the Democratic primary battle for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Bill Keller.

Asked about the support in a telephone interview, Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty said Rowan was talking about economic development at the Port of Philadelphia, Philadelphia International Airport, and the Navy Yard.

“These are all major economic engines, not only for the city, but the region,” Dougherty said.

Rowan is in a four-way contest in the Tuesday primary.

Also in the race are former WHYY reporter Elizabeth Fiedler, who’s raised $166,992; attorney Tom Wyatt, who’s raised $78,312; and former police detective Nicholas DiDonato, who’s raised $2,947.

Local 98’s contributions are huge for a state House race, but they aren’t the biggest expenditure for the union this year. It has put more than $300,000 into independent expenditures for South Philadelphia congressional candidate Rich Lazer.

In addition, the union contributed $75,000 to the campaign of union plasterer Sean Kilkenny, who’s in a six-candidate primary for the Northeast Philadelphia seat being vacated by state Rep. John Taylor.

Dougherty has long said about the union’s political contributions that he wants working-class candidates to have the tools to match wealthy candidates for office.

Disclosure: IBEW Local 98 represents engineers at WHYY.

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