Veteran South Philadelphia City Councilman Frank DiCicco now has three at least announced challengers in the spring Democratic primary, and this will be interesting.
Conventional wisdom is that you don’t knock a 20-year incumbent out, especially if the opposition is divided. But two things about this race give DiCicco’s opponents hope.
The first is his participation in the widely-reviled DROP retirement plan that will net him over $400,000 in a lump sum payment.
DiCicco has an answer for this: If he’s re-elected, he’ll donate his entire salary back to the city, and he says he’ll contribute it specifically to the Philadelphia Activities Fund for his Councilmanic District.
This is a little-known fund under the city parks and recreation department that allows Council members to steer some discretionary cash to worthy groups and projects in their districts.
DiCicco’s promise cleverly gives community groups a direct stake in his re-election: if they vote him in, the activities fund and their own projects get a healthy boost (I checked by the way, and he can legally do this if the Nutter administration agrees to take his donated salary and increase the 1st Councilmanic fund by a corresponding sum).
The second thing that makes this re-election campaign different for DiCicco is that his former friend and patron, State Sen. Vince Fumo is now gone, serving federal time for corruption.
DiCicco makes a credible case that he has his own name and funding sources now, but one thing Fumo brought to the game was his sway over ward leaders, who always exert influence in a Councilmanic primary.
One of DiCicco’s rivals, attorney Mike Boyle is leader of the 5th ward in center city, and the 1st ward in South Philadelphia is now led by DiCicco’s arch-rival, electricians’ union leader John Dougherty.
Two other opponents have emerged. Joe Grace, a former Daily News reporter, attorney, and gun control activist; and Jeff Hornstein, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union.
It’s not clear how many will still be in the field by next May, but a multi-candidate field typically benefits the incumbent.
DiCicco said he’s happy to take them all on. “The more, the merrier,” he said.