The mayor’s race in Philadelphia still has six Democratic hopefuls.
On Wednesday, former state Sen. T. Milton Street survived a two-part challenge to his candidacy – just as he thought he would.
“There was never any doubt in my mind,” Street said afterward.
Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Wogan, who presided over the case, didn’t buy either claim argued by lawyer Kevin Greenberg on behalf of union leader Joseph Coccio Jr.
On Friday, Greenberg said Street should be kicked off the ballot because Street was a registered independent – not a Democrat – when he filed his nominating petitions and accompanying candidate affidavit earlier this month.
Street, who represented himself in court, said he thought he was a registered Democrat as of 2013, though he was unable to provide any proof.
Street said he made a “correction” on March 13, three days after the deadline for filing nominating petitions with the Philadelphia County Board of Elections, in response to reading in the newspaper that he was still a registered independent.
While “beyond negligent,” Wogan decided that Street had not intentionally deceived voters. What’s more, there was no case law supporting the claim that Street needed to be a registered Democrat at the time he filed his nominating petitions.
On Wednesday, Wogan again ruled in Street’s favor after rejecting Greenberg’s argument that, under a state law from the 1930s, Street should be considered a New Jersey resident, not a Philadelphian.
The law effectively defines a candidate’s residence as wherever his or her spouse lives.
Street has a long-term relationship with a woman who lives in Moorestown in Burlington County, but he said they were never legally married and he always lived in Philadelphia.
At one point, Street testified that his partner was his common-law wife. He later backed away from that statement, adding that common-law marriages no longer exist in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
Street equated the residency issue to a last ditch effort to get him off the ballot.
“He couldn’t get in through the first floor, couldn’t get in through the second floor, couldn’t get in through the third floor, so that was a desperate attempt to try and get in through the attic,” said Street with a laugh.
Greenberg said afterwards that an appeal to state Common Pleas Court could be coming. He’s got 10 days to file one.
As it stands, state Sen. Anthony Williams, former City Councilman Jim Kenney, former city solicitor Nelson Diaz, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and former Philadelphia Gas Works executive Doug Oliver are also on the Democratic primary ballot.
Wednesday’s proceedings also shored up the candidate field for City Council.
Barring appeals, just two of ten sitting district City Council members will have a primary opponent.
After more than 25 hours of reviewing – at times, bitterly – voter signatures inside and outside of the courtroom, Greg Paulmier withdrew his candidacy in Northwest Philadelphia’s Eighth District.
Paulmier, who has run unsuccessfully for the seat four times, fell roughly 85 signatures short of the 750 required for candidates interested in district posts.
The signatures had to come from registered Democrats in the Eighth District, which includes Mt. Airy, Germantown and Chestnut Hill. Hundreds were struck for myriad reasons, including when a voter lived outside of the district, was registered with another party or not at all.
“As hard as it was, it was the right thing to do – to come together and decide that there’s a time to fight and a time to work together sometimes with the people that you fight with,” said Paulmier, who, after completing the paperwork, returned to the courtroom with a symbolic white plastic fork in hand.
Paulmier said a run in four years isn’t out of the question. In the meantime, first-term Democratic incumbent Cindy Bass will run unopposed.
“I look forward to trying to find ways that we can work together and find common ground. We need to not tear our communities apart, but to build it up,” said Bass, who was on hand when Paulmier bowed out.
Third District City Councilwoman Janie Blackwell will also be the only Democrat on the ballot after a court challenge knocked out her competitor, Tony Dfax King.
Most district council members, however, never had opponents in the primary.
Only Seventh District City Councilwoman Maria Quinonez-Sanchez and Second District City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson will have a challenger on May 19.
More than 20 candidates – Republican and Democrat – are still vying for seven Council-at-Large seats.