Lambasting City Council over PGW deal, Wolfe launches new bid for at-large seat

 Longtime ward leader and Philadelphia attorney Matt Wolfe launches his campaign for an at-large spot on City Council.(Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Longtime ward leader and Philadelphia attorney Matt Wolfe launches his campaign for an at-large spot on City Council.(Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Longtime ward leader and Philadelphia attorney Matt Wolfe on Wednesday launched his campaign to land an at-large spot on City Council.

Using a Philadelphia Gas Works office on Chestnut Street as a backdrop, Wolfe stood at a small lectern and told a few dozen people that Council’s move to smother a proposed $1.86 billion sale of PGW was irresponsible.

“We are going to pay higher gas rates. We’re going to have less investment in Philadelphia because it’s more expensive, the emergency costs are more expensive here,” Wolfe said. “Which means less jobs and a worse climate for business.”

Additionally, he selected the PGW site as the campaign kick-off site because “this office is closed,” he said before shaking the building’s locked door. It’s emblematic, he said, of a business that should not be controlled by the government. “Irrationally, they’re closed on Wednesday.”

After Wolfe’s remarks, a PGW representative handed out pamphlets listing the public utility’s hours, which showed that other regional offices, including locations in North and South Philadelphia, are open on Wednesdays.

Wolfe has held the 27th Ward position encompassing his home base of University City since 1979. And he’s now going after Bill Green’s vacated Council seat, which is held by former state Rep. Ed Neilson. 

Last year, Neilson defeated Wolfe in a special election for the seat.

This time around, Wolfe is pushing a populist campaign theme, sounding off on possible ways to improve the lot of the less fortunate.

“We are a poor city because politicians are more concerned with getting re-elected and pandering to the special interest groups that do that than they are the long-term health of our city,” Wolfe said  Wednesday. “And all of our problems relate to that. Our crime problems, our education problems, our health problems.”

Wolfe is among eight Republican candidates running in at-large Council races. At-large Republican Councilmen Denny O’Brien and David Oh are seeking re-election.

Council’s 17 member body includes seven at-large seats, which are citywide positions. The others are designated by districts. Philadelphia’s charter says at least two of the at-large positions must be controlled by the minority party. In Philadelphia, that has long been the province of Republicans. 

But Wolfe says this fall might be the time to boost Republican ranks, despite Democrats commanding a six-to-one edge on voter registration.

“We have strong candidates,” Wolfe said. “Hopefully we’ll put five strong candidates forward in November and see if we can get more than the two spots that’s we’ve traditionally gotten.”

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