Newt’s guy wigs out, the big dog on City Council, and election notes

    There was a lot of talk (some of it by me) about how Tuesday’s primary election in Philadelphia brought a rise in influence for powerful electricians’ union leader John Dougherty.

    But we should also note the power surge for another big dog in city politics: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. Congressional staffer Cindy Bass will join two other close Fattah allies, Blondell Reynolds Brown and Curtis Jones on Council in January, giving Fattah a close association with three of Council’s 17 members.

    Fattah’s long been someone who’s reach has extended beyond the legislative office he holds. He’s spurred the development of non-profits to support causes he believes in, and has cultivated and raised money for young office-seekers.

    When Fattah joined Congress he supported Vincent Hughes to take his State Senate seat, and the two remain close. Fattah’s longtime political field general Greg Naylor and consultant Tom Lindenfeld were deployed to ensure Bass had the organization she needed for a convincing win on Tuesday.

    I called and asked him what we should make of his expanding influence. He told me he doesn’t tell his Council friends how to vote and is “not in the patronage and power orbit.”

    “I’m not in a competition with anybody who’s trying to have influence,” Fattah said. “I’m really trying to have an impact on public policy by getting people who are committed to public-spirited efforts to address the city’s real challenges.”

    Fattah also has juice in the executive branch. After an intensely-contested battle with Michael Nutter in the 2007 mayoral primary, the two have repaired their relationship and stay in close touch.

    While many in the city debate whether Mayor Nutter should be embarrassed about Milton Street getting 24 percent of the vote against him Tuesday, Catherine Lucey of the Philadelphia Daily News makes an interesting point.

    She notes that the returns only show what polls showed before the election – that Nutter’s standing is weaker among African-Americans than whites.

    “A close look at five predominantly African-American North Philadelphia wards where Milton Street took more than 40 percent of the vote suggests that they were likely never Nutter strongholds to begin with. A review of the returns in the 2007 primary showed that in each of those wards, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and state Rep. Dwight Evans took more votes combined than Nutter,” Lucey and Chris Brennan write. Read the rest here.

    And I just noticed this little entry by Temple student Foluke Dennis in the Newsworks election day blog, describing events at 29th and Clearfield: “At this location a van drove by with a loud speaker screeching, “Vote that white mayor out of office, vote for Milton Street.”

    Finally, I love it when flaks get carried away on behalf of politicians they serve. You may have followed the flap over Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s criticism of Paul Ryan’s tax plan, and Gingrich blaming the liberal media for somehow getting his meaning wrong.

    Here’s how Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler responded when the Huffington Post asked him about media coverage of the controversy:

    “The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”

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