Man of the machine?

    Mark Squilla, the Democratic committeeman endorsed by Philadelphia City Councilman Frank DiCicco to succeed him got some support, and maybe some harmful baggage in the last couple of days.

    The Inquirer’s Jeff Shields and Marcia Gelbart report that city Democratic chairman U.S. Rep. Bob Brady brokered a Saturday night meeting at which DiCicco agreed to support Squilla for the district, which includes South Philadelphia, Center City east of Broad, and some river wards.

    Also in the meeting were electricians union leader John Dougherty, and 39th ward leader Matt Myers.

    Those are names that give Squilla some juice, but could also tag him as a machine candidate in a district with a lot of independent-minded voters.

    Think of it: You’ve got the Democratic party boss, a ward leader whose brother Ozzie Myers went to jail in a corruption case, and a powerful union leader who also happens to be a ward leader.

    Yesterday I asked Squilla if he thinks of himself as an organization guy.

    “I consider myself to be neighborhood candidate,” said Squilla, who resigned as president of the Whitman Council Civic Association in order to run. “My mission is to get people involved in city politics and connect communities with city hall.”

    Squilla notes that in 2004 he ran against incumbent State Representative Bill Keller, who was a close ally of Dougherty. “I was a grass roots candidate,” he said. “I ran against the establishment, (State Senator) Vince Fumo included.”

    Squilla is a longtime employee of the State Auditor General’s office, now working as an systems analyst. He has a B.A. in computer science from LaSalle.

    His opponents are wasting no time painting him as the organization man.

    “I think there will be an inside candidate,” said rival Joe Grace, “and if that’s Mark Squilla, I welcome the idea of being the outside candidate.”

    Former Service Employees International Union organizer Jeff Hornstein said he’s “the only candidate not tied to the old politics. The fact that there was some back room deal to anoint the first district candidate is not going to sit well with the people of the district.”

    Before saying that, Hornstein said he has the support of four of the district’s ward leaders himself, enough to deny Squilla the party endorsement.

    Also in the mix is community activist Vern Anastasio, who’s run before.

    Given South Philly’s history of politics as a contact support, this is one race to watch.

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