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Rhynhart shocks three-term incumbent in Philly controller’s race

Democrat Rebecca Rynhart clinched the nomination for Philadelphia Controller in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Democrat Rebecca Rynhart clinched the nomination for Philadelphia Controller in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In Philadelphia’s City Controller’s race, Democrat Rebecca Rhynhart defeated three-term incumbent Alan Butkovitz in a major upset.

Butkovitz has been Philadelphia’s fiscal watchdog for 12 years — a tenure marked by his adversarial relationship with former Mayor Michael Nutter.

Rhynhart — who was Nutter’s budget director for six years — said she plans to take a more collaborative approach to auditing city government and the school district.

As to how she won the Democratic primary, she said progressives, many of them frustrated with national politics under President Donald Trump, were swayed by her message of change.

“I think that the momentum has built,” she said. “My message has resonated with voters in all neighborhoods I’ve gone to, and I’m just really excited for the future.”

Rhynhart is promising to make upgrades that could save the city $10 million a year, pointing to the electronic contracting system she launched as Mayor Jim Kenney’s chief administrative officer. 

“The changes we made in procurement alone saved a few million dollars a year and that’s just one department,” she said. “So that’s why I have confidence that if we look at the city, and say, how do we modernize and change some of these really outdated processes we can save a lot of money and that’s what the people here deserve.”

In November, Rhynhart faces Republican Michael Tomlinson, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary.

Meanwhile at his election night headquarters in Northeast Philadelphia, a somber Butkovitz said his time in office was spent fighting for the public.

“You never like to lose, but I feel very comfortable,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to revolutionize that office and make a substantial contribution to Philadelphians and… this is the natural consequence of stepping on toes and it’s not so bad.”

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