When Milton Street called a press conference outside the Philadelphia City Commissioner’s Office on Monday, he provided reporters with paperwork which he said backs his claim that he’s eligible to run for mayor in the Democratic primary.
What he ended up doing was unexpectedly answering questions about a legal challenge to the validity of his candidacy filed in the First Judicial District on behalf of Joseph Coccio Jr., the secretary-treasurer of the Transit Workers Union, Local 234. That’s the largest union representing SEPTA employees.
The complaint claims Street is neither a registered Democrat nor Philadelphia resident. Coccio’s attorney Kevin Greenberg told the Inquirer that his client did not file the challenge on behalf of any of Street’s competititors. (Last month, though, TWU Local 234 endorsed Anthony Williams in the six-candidate race.)
Greenberg told NinetyNine that he did, however, give the Williams, Lynne Abraham and Jim Kenney campaigns a “head’s up” before the challenge (PDF) was filed.
Registration and residency issues
Despite records indicating that Street has voted as a registered independent since the 2012 general primary, Street shared copies of the voter rolls (Ward 16, Division 17) that show “Milton T. Street Sr.” and “T Street Sr.” voted as a Democrat on May 21, 2013 and May 20, 2014.
Street claims he switched his registration back from independent in 2012.
“I mailed my change of registration down here, sometime at the end of February or early March 2013,” he explained. “Once I sent that in, I could vote in 2013. Once I vote in 2013, and I’m registered for all intents and purposes as a Democrat, because I was allowed to vote as a Democrat, I’m down on the record as a Democrat, I voted No. 46 in the Democratic ledger.
“So, there was no reason, after I voted in two primaries, to go back and try to revisit to see if they have received my mail-in registration.”
Street brushed off the residency claim as something that comes up, and is easily defeated, each time he runs for office.
“Of course I live in Philadelphia. I haven’t taken leave of my senses. Why I would I do all this and live somewhere else?” he asked.
Who’s behind the challenge?
Though he said around 11:30 a.m. that he’s yet to be served with the challenge — which the Inquirer‘s Chris Brennan told him about at the press conference — Street explained why he suspected candidate and state Sen. Tony Williams was somehow behind it.
“[Lynne] Abraham and [Jim] Kenney will split the white vote, [Doug] Oliver is a non-factor … [and] I don’t think [Nelson] Diaz will make too much of an impact,” he said. “Sen. Williams is the only one that benefits from me being out of the race.
“They have information, via some polls that they took, that says ‘we have to get this guy out.’ I think that they understand that there is a vote out there that will vote for me, a number of people that will vote for me out there. … I think they think I can win. It’s a six-way split. What would keep me from winning? They’re afraid of my message, I’m telling ya.”
Asked on Monday afternoon about Street’s assertions, Williams campaign spokesman Al Butler said, “No, we have no comment on that. Milton Street is going to say and do what Milton Street is going to say and do.”
He also noted that Street “abandoning the Democratic Party and then asking for its nomination” should be considered.
What if the challenge boots him?
After the press conference ended, Street talked to NinetyNine about what would happen should he get booted off the ballot. Namely, would he run as an independent in November’s general election?
“No,” he said. “It’s an uphill climb. It takes money, and to run against ‘big labor’ is just a loser. You can’t run against the ‘big labor.’ I don’t care who it is. You would need hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
NinetyNine will cover the challenge hearing when it’s formally scheduled any time between 9:30 a.m. Friday and the close of business on March 25.