It was a Philly political reporter’s dream: Renee Tartaglione, daughter of Northeast Philadelphia ward leader and former City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, running next spring for the office her mother lost to self-styled reform candidate Stephanie Singer.
In a campaign fundraising email earlier today, Singer wrote: “I have news. Marge Tartaglione’s daughter, Renee Tartaglione, has informed us she is going to challenge all the hard work I’ve done to clean up the City Commissioner’s office by running against me in next year’s primary.”
Marge Tartaglione, now 84, is a colorful character, a practised veteran of ward politics and, to Singer, an emblem of the Democratic machine and what’s wrong with Philadelphia elections. Tartaglione lost her office four years ago, in part, because the city Board of Ethics found that Renee, a deputy in her mother’s office, had engaged in illegal political activity.
The thought of Renee trying to take Singer out in a campaign of revenge was just too good to be true — literally. When I got Renee on the phone, she quickly spoiled the party. “No, I’m not running,” she said.
What? Singer said you’d informed her you were running? Not true, Renee said.
I got back to the Singer campaign and asked about the basis for the claim that Renee said she was running. I wondered if Singer’s campaign was invoking Tartaglione’s name after hearing some flimsy rumor just to energize supporters and juice fundraising.
Singer’s campaign manager, Shannon Marietta, said in an email she and Singer had run into Renee Tartaglione at the AFL-CIO Labor Day event at Penn’s Landing, and when they asked how she was doing, Renee replied that she was preparing to run for city commissioner. Sounds pretty clear.
When I called Renee back, she didn’t want to talk about specifics, just that she wasn’t running. When I pressed her on whether she remembered talking to Singer at the Labor Day event, she said she might have been at the Shore that day.
“I don’t know where I would even have the occasion to see her,” she said. “She knocked my mother out of office. Why would I want to talk to her?”
OK, I said, this isn’t a huge story or anything, but, to be clear, you never told her you planned to run against her?
“Not that I can recall,” she said. “All I want to say is, I’m not running.”
Oh well. Singer will still have a campaign to run. Carol Jenkins, a Democratic ward leader from West Philadelphia, has indicated she plans to run for commissioner in the May primary.