This year, Philadelphia will vote for a new mayor and City Council members. The officials who run the city’s elections are also up for re-election, and a self-styled reformer who won four years ago will have a competitive race to keep her job.
Over the years, Philadelphia’s three city commissioners — two Democrats and one Republican — have typically been the chosen candidates of party ward leaders.
In 2011, Democrat Stephanie Singer shocked the political establishment by beating longtime commissioner and Northeast Philadelphia ward leader Marge Tartaglione.
Singer is kicking off her re-election campaign this week after a rocky term in which her two fellow commissioners, Republican Al Schmidt and Democrat Anthony Clark, ousted her as chair.
“I was making a lot of good government, liberal changes, and there was a coup d’etat to go back to the old way, to Marge’s way,” she said.
Last year, Singer was fined by the City of Philadelphia Board of Ethics for improper use of a city employee’s time. She was also criticized by political watchdogs for sending an email urging residents to vote in order to send a message to then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican.
“I respect the boundaries, and I respect the nonpartisan work that needs to be done in City Hall,” Singer said, insisting the reform agenda that helped get her elected last time will help her in what’s expected to be a crowded primary. Other candidates include Democrats Carol Jenkins, Lisa Deely and Dennis Lee.
On her agenda this time is finding a cost-effective way to replace Philadelphia’s old voting machines, lobbying Harrisburg for online voter registration and no-fault absentee voting. Singer also wants to replace chief deputy commissioner Don Garecht, Schmidt’s former campaign director, with an executive director to run the office’s day-to-day operations.
“I care about elections,” she said. “I care about democracy in this city and the city commissioners’ office has a lot to do with what kind of good government we have and what kind of good politics we have in Philadelphia.”