National womens’ group gives Singer lift

    There’s good news for Stephanie Singer, the math professor-center city ward leader-upstart candidate for Philadelphia city commissioner who says she wants to get the machine politicians out of running elections.

    Singer has been endorsed by the Washington-based group Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democrats for elected office.

    The group was founded in 1985 by Ellen Malcolm, and it’s provided critical financial support to many successful candidates.

    The acronym stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast – because it makes the dough rise.

    Emily’s List is best known for electing women to high-profile offices. The group says it’s helped 16 women get to the U.S. Senate and 84 to the House. But they also back state and local candidates.

    I don’t know what Emily’s List will do for Singer, but I remember what they did for Allyson Schwartz when she ran for Congress in 2004. She was in a tough primary against Joe Torsella for an open seat, and Emily’s List was responsible for at least $500,000 in contributions to her campaign.

    They also sent several volunteers to the area for 12 weeks to work on Schwartz’s behalf, and targeted 13 pieces of direct mail at Democratic voters.

    Veteran Democratic consultant Neil Oxman, who worked for Torsella in that race, told me at the time Emily’s List made a critical difference in Schwartz’s victory.

    Emily’s List had to do this without coordinating with the Schwartz campaign because of federal campaign finance rules, and I think they’d have to keep some distance from the Singer campaign here, because of provisions in the city’s campaign finance law.

    But if they simply send Singer’s name to their network of nationwide donors and get her a few dozen three-figure checks, that could help in a race like this.

    Singer’s campaign manager Shannon Marietta said she doesn’t know what the Emily’s List support will mean financially, but the group will help with election day volunteers.

    I’m waiting to hear from Emily’s List.

    One more note about the Singer campaign. When I originally posted this item, Singer’s campaign manager Marietta called to object to my characterization that Singer wants to “abolish the office she’s running for.”

    Several reform groups have advocated the elimination of the city commissioners as elected offices, and when Singer announced her candidacy, she promised to “get the politics out of elections by getting rid of elected commissioners and making sure Philadelphia elections are in the hands of non-partisan professionals.”

    Marietta said Singer has “softened” her position on the matter, and believes it should be up to voters to decide in a charter change whether the commissioners should be eleminated as an elected post. “She is not running to abolish the office,” Marietta said.

    In the race for the 1st City Council district in South Philadelphia, center city and the river wards, Joe Grace has announced that former Gov. Ed Rendell is supporting him, and will headline a fundraiser Friday night.

    Mayor Michael Nutter has endorsed Mark Squilla in the contest.

    And the union representing city white collar workers, AFSCME District Council 47, has announced it won’t make an endorsement in the Democratic mayoral primary.

    Milton Street, who is running against Nutter, has been backed by the firefighters’ union and AFSCME District Council 33, which represents city blue collar workers.

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