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Clout: Gridlock of candidates for Traffic Court seats

PHILADELPHIA Traffic Court is under the microscope as the feds investigate whether politically connected drivers received special treatment. But that doesn't seem to be discouraging would-be candidates from seeking seats on that court in the May 2013 primary election.

PHILADELPHIA Traffic Court is under the microscope as the feds investigate whether politically connected drivers received special treatment.

But that doesn't seem to be discouraging would-be candidates from seeking seats on that court in the May 2013 primary election.

Several people have already expressed interest to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the city's Democratic Party.

They include Barbara Deeley, who knows what it feels like to work at an agency of significant interest to federal prosecutors.

Deeley rose from top deputy to become the city's first female sheriff in January 2011, with Brady's backing, after John Green stepped down from the post he'd held for 23 years. Deeley agreed to not run for a full term, clearing the way for now-Sheriff Jewell Williams.

Deeley says that she is definitely running and hopes that "things will turn around" at Traffic Court.

Donna DeRose, chief steward of the union that represents some employees at the state Treasurer's Office and Auditor General's Office, says that she, too, will run.

DeRose's boyfriend, 35th Ward Democratic Leader Bill Dolbow, spoke with Brady about her candidacy. Dolbow was mentioned last month as a ward leader known for seeking "special consideration" in Traffic Court cases, according to a report completed at the behest of state Chief Justice Ron Castille.

Brady also was listed in the report as someone who sought special considerations. He rejects that claim, saying that he only helped people find lawyers to take their cases in Traffic Court.

Three candidates who failed in 2011 to land spots on Traffic Court are trying again. They are: Fred Mari Jr., who worked at the court for seven years; Omar Sabir, a former tipstaff in the First Judicial District; and Donna Marie Laws, who has a background in social service.

Tim Thornton, an analyst at the Philadelphia Parking Authority and brother of 40-A Ward Democratic Leader Ed Thornton, is mulling a run.

So is Jeffery Blackwell, a deputy director of community affairs in the City Controller's Office and grandson of City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.

And Will Mega, who appeared on the first season of the "Big Brother" television show and who has run unsuccessfully for the state House, is also interested.

Three of Traffic Court's seven judgeships are vacant, meaning that Brady can submit names to Gov. Corbett for approval by the state Senate. Anyone approved will serve on the bench in 2013, with a salary of $89,901, while running to start a new six-year term in 2014.

And there may be another vacancy. Traffic Court Judge Bob Mulgrew was suspended by the state Supreme Court from his post in September after being indicted on federal charges unrelated to the Traffic Court probe.

The race for D.A.

Potential candidates are also sizing up the race for district attorney in 2013 as incumbent Seth Williams seeks a second term.

Renee Cardwell Hughes, who left a 16-year career as a Common Pleas judge last year to take the top job at the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Red Cross, is said to be thinking about a Democratic primary run.

We noted in September that Hughes had been approached about running for mayor in 2015.

Hughes demurred when asked about challenging Williams but sounded interested in the job.

"I don't think it's a secret to anyone that I loved my time on the bench," Hughes said. "The fact that people think that I could be the prosecutor for our city is a huge compliment."

Recruitment expert Judith von Seldeneck, of Diversified Search, helped put Hughes in the Red Cross job and has been looking for female candidates to run for top elected posts in the city.

"I think that if she was ever to be interested in something like that, she'd have my support and a lot of support from people, just because she's so capable and competent," von Seldeneck said.

Family law attorney Linda Kerns is being courted by Republicans from the state party to run. Kerns sounds ready to fight, dropping two references in our conversation to the divorce that Williams and his wife announced in December 2011, after months of rumors.

Kerns said that the city needs better than a D.A. who is out "wining and dining people who are not his wife."

Williams, who would rather talk about his record than his personal life, said repeatedly that he had never heard of Kerns.

"I don't know who she went to the junior prom with," Williams said. "I don't know if it's relevant. I'm going to have to look into what's relevant to her."

As for Hughes, Williams said he doesn't think she'll run in 2013.

The Pa Society tussle

Dan Stevenson, brother of Brian Stevenson, a business manager for Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was one half of the early Saturday morning tussle at a bar in the W Hotel in New York City that turned heads at Pennsylvania Society last week.

Stevenson said that he bumped into a guy, spilling his drink, and apologized immediately. The guy, described to us as a central Pennsylvania Republican strategist, didn't accept the apology, leading to what Stevenson called "a little altercation" with some grabbing and shoving but no punching.

Steve Lauer, an aide to City Councilman Mark Squilla, tried to break it up, but got nowhere.

"It's mayhem," Stevenson said of the bar atmosphere. "It's crowded. It's a long day."

Local 98 leader John Dougherty, while serving on the Delaware River Port Authority, proposed Stevenson for one of the top law-enforcement jobs there. It didn't work out. Stevenson is now regional sales executive for the SugarHouse casino, in Fishtown.

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN