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Unions clash (politely) in NE Philly special election

Mid-day report from today's 170th state House District special election in Northeast Philadelphia

Daily News staff writer Bob Stewart filed this report from Northeast Philadelphia ...

Labors unions are clashing today on behalf of two newcomers to the political arena.

Democrat Sarah Del Ricci and Republican Martina White are vying for the 170th state House District seat, which opened up when Brendan Boyle was elected to Congress last November.

Del Ricci, 34, and White, 26, met at 8:30 a.m. at Fitzpatrick Recreation Center on Academy Road and shook hands. They were probably the only two people involved in the race who didn't already know each other.

"I think they may have met each other once at an event before," Joe DeFelice, head of the Philadelphia Republican Party, said from the Martina White war room at District Council 21.

Members from at least 15 different unions were helping White at the polls, knocking on doors, and making phone calls, according to organizers at the Glaziers Local 252 hall.

But other unions, which typically back Democrats, decided to stick with Del Ricci.

(Read today's Daily News story on how the race became so divisive. There's a lot going on behind the scenes and we're not going to recap the whole mess again).

"We have the Sheet Metal workers, Carpenters, the Local 14 insulators, UFCW, and the 107 Teamsters," said Gene McAleer, who led the Democratic mobilization efforts.

McAleer, son of Democratic ward leader Mike McAleer, said it's all about the turnout for Del Ricci.

"We're at about 5 percent now (noon)," McAleer said. "I think we need to get to 12 percent. Above 12 and we should win."

McAleer blamed the state for not getting the word out about the special election: "We're finding people who had no idea about it. The state didn't do enough."

Joe Giedemann, working for White, said numbers were low at George Washington High School, which hosts four divisions. But he wasn't worried.

"Only three people voted in the one division," Giedemann said. "We typically don't do great here. The registration [for Democrats] is much higher here than other parts of the district."

District Council 21, which endorsed White, dispatched groups of union volunteers in bright red shirts to polling places as needed -- 300 in the morning, 300 in the afternoon, with another 100 working the phones.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 put more than 50 people at the polls for White.

Union volunteers for both sides ran into friends working for the opponent.

Tim Crowther, business representative for Glaziers Local 252, which backed White, said he is friendly with Del Ricci's husband. Jim Shupe, a Democratic Committeeman in the 66th Ward who's supporting Del Rici, finds himself at odds with his own union, the Steamfitters Local 420, which joined the rebel coalition backing White.

"It's odd for sure," said Shupe, who told his union about his situation. "They understand."

The candidates took different approaches to their Election Day schedule. Del Ricci planned to visit multiple polling places across the district. White decided to stay at the Fitzpatrick Recreation Center for the entire day due to its close proximity to the Stephan Decatur School. The locations share a parking lot. There are seven divisions between them.

Polls close at 8 p.m. tonight.

We're hearing turnout estimates of around 11 percent to 12 percent of the 35,732 registered voters in the 170th, which covers the Bustleton-Somerton-Parkwood area in the Far Northeast.