With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans in Philadelphia 7-to-1, much of the race for City Council focuses on the Democratic primary.
But at least two Republicans will win “at large” seats this year.
And the GOP’s contest does not end with the primary.
Philadelphia’s City Charter provides for seven at-large members of council, but only two seats are set aside for the “minority party,” which in Philadelphia usually means a Republican. So even though five candidates will be chosen in the GOP primary, they will battle for just two guaranteed spots in November.
Councilman Dennis O’Brien, once speaker of the Pennsylvania House, doesn’t have a lock on on his City Council seat despite that high-profile past. The two are very different types of races, O’Brien said.
“It’s a lot different then when I was in the State House because you have to go all over the city of Philadelphia,” he said. “So, some things are beyond your control. It’s a continuing learning experience — all the different neighborhoods and all the different problems that exist in those neighborhoods.”
O’Brien said he’s running on his record and speaking out for those who sometimes don’t have a voice in politics.
“First and foremost, my commitment is to individuals who are vulnerable, the elderly and my guys with disabilities,” he said. “Also, this issue where we wrote the legislation on commercial and industrial buildings we want to make this community safe for both firefighters and communities.”
Councilman David Oh, the other Republican at-large incumbent, said he has carved out a niche in Council.
“I do some things that have not been done before, particularly when it comes to global opportunities and the creative and innovative economy,” he said. “Representing veterans and being more inclusive about many ethnic groups that are in Philadelphia that have not had the opportunity to contribute more fully.”
Al Taubenberger is expected to provide a strong challenge to the incumbents. Taubenberger, head of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, has run for mayor and an at-large Council seat, nearly winning the latter the last time out.
“I was 163 votes short out of 80,000 cast,” he said. “You look at those numbers for three years, you find where they are. You know you can do better, and — particularly when you look at Republican at-large councilpeople and you don’t like what you see — you motivate yourself to run again. And that’s what I’m doing.”
Other Republican candidates vying for the at-large seats are Daniel Tinney, Terry Tracy, James Williams and Matt Wolfe.