Philadelphia's Democratic ward leaders will gather at 8 p.m. tonight to cast votes to, in all probability, re-elect U.S. Rep. Bob Brady as their party chairman.

More interesting news, though, may break a few hours earlier when party officials are expected to meet to resolve a nasty battle brewing since last week as to who is leader of the 2nd Ward in Bella Vista/Southwark.

Nick Schmanek, an aide to City Councilman Frank DiCicco is pretty certain that he won a majority of votes cast by committeemen last week to win the position.

But Ed Nesmith, an ally of Local 98 electricians' union leader - and newly-elected 1st Ward Leader - John Dougherty, is also pretty certain that he won a majority of those votes cast, in part because he cast a tie-breaking vote himself to declare that he was the winner.

It's DiCicco v. Dougherty, Round 86... or something like that.

Schmanek has challenged Nesmith's right to be a tie-breaker, saying that since Nesmith is not a committeeman, he can't cast a vote. Schmanek also has other issues with the June 8 ward election, held at Saigon Maxim restaurant on Washington Avenue. He claims that at least five committeemen have falsely claimed to live in their respective divisions when in fact they live elsewhere - making their votes and their standing as committeemen illigitmate.

Then there's Schmanek's assertion that the actual ward election was chaotic, attested to by three committeepeople. "I was very disappointed with my first ever 2nd ward election meeting," wrote Schmanek ally Anne Gemmell. "As a resident of Philadelphia for over ten years, and the grand-daughter of Irish American Two-Streeters, I loathe thinking Democratic City Committee finds this acceptable."

So what does Democratic City Committee find acceptable? The committee has appointed a "contest committee" that will hear from both Nesmith's and Schmanek's sides later this afternoon.

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