John Street’s threat, and prospects for change

    Will John Street really run for mayor or City Council?

    Nope. A mayoral run would amount to too much fundraising, too much time, and too much emotional risk if he were to lose badly. And I’m pretty sure he’d lose convincingly.

    Street could win an at-large Council seat if he wanted to. All he’d have to do is beat the second-best finisher among the five Republican candidates. In 2007, that bar was 61,239 votes – less than six percent of those cast.

    But I can’t believe Street really wants to serve a four-year term on Council in a non-leadership role after spending eight years as Council president and eight more as mayor.

    But he’ll keep us and Mayor Nutter guessing as long as he can.

    The election machinery of Philadelphia is headed for change after yesterday’s stunning Democratic primary win by Stephanie Singer over 78-year old city commission chair Marge Tartaglione.

    It’s especially significant when you consider than Al Schmidt, the young, insurgent Republican candidate beat the party machine and won one of two GOP nominations for the office.

    The way this works is that each party now has two candidates, and the top three vote-getters will become the three-member commission, which oversees elections here.

    Given the Democrats’ lop-sided registration edge, only one Republican will survive the general, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t Schmidt, who should have broader voter appeal than Northeast Philly Republican ward leader Joe Duda.

    What does this mean?

    It means you have two PhD’s running the city commission (Singer’s in math, Schmidt’s in history). And I think it means Singer becomes chair, which should be interesting.

    When Singer announced her candidacy, she said she would work to abolish the city commissioners as elective offices. At some point in the campaign, she modified her position, saying it’s up to voters to decide the future of the office.

    As I reported on election day, Singer got some surprising (to me, at least) support from Northeast Philadelphia Democratic ward leaders.

    When I visited Tartaglione on election day, she said it would be her last campaign, win or lose, because politics had changed for the worse. You can hear about my visit to her polling place on Wednesday’s edition of Newsworks Tonight, or listen to my report by clicking the audio link above.

    Speaking of Republicans, what an embarrassing day for party leaders. Besides losing

    a city commissioner race to Schmidt, they failed to get their favored mayoral candidate, Karen Brown over the finish line.

    Brown, until this year a Democrat, is in a dead heat with self-described libertarian John Featherman. I called party chairman Vito Canuso to get his take.

    “We weren’t disciplined,” Canuso told me. “People got lazy and didn’t think he was in the ball game, so we just didn’t perform.”

    “(Featherman) did a robocall,” Canuso said. “He’s got an ethnic name, which helps, and ballot position. And the angry people always turn up.”

    Brown had a 53-vote lead with 97 percent of the unofficial tally in. The race will be decided over the next couple of weeks in the official canvass of votes. In my experience, the candidate with even a slim lead in the unofficial returns almost always sees their lead grow with the official count – I have no idea why, it just seems to happen.

    Canuso said Schmidt prevailed in large measure because of help he’s been getting from Republican state committee chairman Robert Gleason, who’s been backing the move to unseat the Philly party establishment.

    Schmidt’s campaign finance report shows that before May 2nd, he got $13,600 from people with the last name Gleason.

    Finally a word about the prospects for meaningful change in City Council.

    If Kenyatta Johnson holds his narrow lead over Barbara Capozzi in the 2nd District seat vacated by Anna Verna, then the four new Democrats coming into Council will be: a Congressional staffer, a state representative , a Democratic committeeman, and an official of the electricians’ union.

    As the Daily News notes in a chart today, all have significant connections to major establishment figures in the party. Whether measured by background or ideas, there’s little reason to see them as representing anything bold or innovative.

    But I may be selling them short. They all have a chance to prove they’re more than where they come from. I hope some do.

    Things are a little more encouraging on the Republican side, where the leading vote-getter among Council at-large candidates was David Oh, who four years ago was a reform-minded candidate running against the party. He could be an interesting addition to the mix at city hall.

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