UPDATE, 4:15 pm: Karen Brown and John Featherman have both been told by the Philadelphia City Commission that there are about 50 Republican provisional ballots to be counted in their race.  Brown is up by 58 votes.  That seems to put the race out of reach for Featherman, who isn't conceding until he has the final vote tally.  Brown declared: "Even if he takes all 50, he can't catch me."

ORIGINAL POST: Karen Brown, the long-time Democratic committeewoman recruited by the leaders of the Republican City Committee this year to run for mayor, has taken a big step closer to defeating real estate agent John Featherman, according to a vote tally compiled by the Philadelphia City Commission one week after the May 17 primary election.

Brown beat Featherman by a margin of 57 votes at the polling places last Tuesday.  A count of absentee, alternative and military ballots completed today showed that she took in another 81 votes while Featherman picked up 80 votes.  Military ballots can arrive and still be counted up until 5 p.m. today.

The big question is the some 900 provisional ballots cast last week at polling places by voters when election officials were uncertain about their registration.  The City Commission is still sorting those ballots and did not have a count as of noon on how many were valid votes and which political parties they came from.

Brown was recruited to challenge Featherman, part of a break-away GOP faction known as the Loyal Opposition, which is attempting to seize control of the party in an effort to reinvigorate it in Philadelphia.  Featherman yesterday said any result this close counted as a victory for him because it showed a challenge to the local GOP leadership is viable.

Brown, a retired Catholic school teacher, emerged earlier this year as an unusual candidate, seeking as a Democrat the City Council 1st District seat and an at-large seat.  She then switched parties in March, saying she was upset with Democrats for not backing her campaigns.  At least 30 employees at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the last strong-hold of Republican patronage jobs in the city, quickly circulated the nominating petitions to help Brown land a spot on the primary ballot.

Brown faced some stumbles along the way, including revelation that she declared Chapter 13 bankruptcy in federal court four times in a 10-year span, faced mortgage foreclosure actions in Common Pleas Court five times from 2002 to 2010 and had five liens filed against her by the city for unpaid gas bills from 2004 to this year.  Brown explained that her money woes could be traced to health problems her husband suffered.