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Philly Clout: City GOP shake-up could reopen old wounds

Clout hears that Joe DeFelice, an attorney who took over as chairman of the Republican City Committee last year, may be leaving that post soon, possibly for a job in President Trump's administration.


The local GOP has been (mostly) at peace for the last three or four years, after a raging feud between the old guard and a band of upstarts known as the Loyal Opposition. This potential change in leadership could reopen some of those old wounds.

We love when that happens.

Two candidates already have emerged to replace DeFelice, who would be barred from holding a political post while working for the government.

Mike Cibik, vice chairman of the local GOP, would step in if DeFelice resigns and told us he plans to run for the post, which is elected by the ward leaders. Joe McColgan, who has run for the U.S. House and for City Council and works in financial management, also is running. DeFelice declined to comment.

Cibik was part of the Loyal Opposition, which pushed for the party to be more competitive and less like a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic City Committee.  The Loyal Opposition was supported by the Pennsylvania Republican Party's last chairman, Rob Gleason — to the dismay of some local Republican ward leaders.

McColgan's brother-in-law is Val DiGiorgio of Chester County, who in February took over as the state Republican Party chairman after Gleason stepped down. McColgan understands the optics here.

"I've asked my brother-in-law to stay out of this completely, to not reach out to any ward leaders," McColgan said. "I do not want the ward leaders to think in any way that he is behind my efforts here."

The potential shake-up raises another question: Who would become the party's executive director, the post DeFelice held until becoming chairman last year with the support of State Rep. John Taylor, who took the chairmanship in 2013 and is credited with putting the civil war (mostly) to rest.

"Whether this happens in a week or a month is unclear," Cibik said of DeFelice's departure. "I think something could happen sooner rather than later and we want to have a contingency plan."

Cibik, a bankruptcy attorney who leads the Fifth Ward, touted his political experience in the party over 35 years.

"I probably raised $1 million for candidates," he said. "There probably isn't a single elected Republican in Philadelphia that I haven't fund-raised for, going back to [the late City Councilman] Thacher Longstreth."

Cibik said, if elected, his pick for executive director would be Chris Vogler, leader of the 55th Ward and a former Philadelphia Parking Authority employee. His father, Walt Vogler, leads the 21st Ward, works for the PPA, and is the party's treasurer.

McColgan said he has spoken to six people interested in the executive director job but has "made no promises to anyone."  One of those people is Jim Pio, a Republican committeeman in the 56th Ward who ran unsuccessfully last year for the 172nd District of the state House in Northeast Philly.

On Wednesday, McColgan resigned from the board of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority because he couldn't sit on the PICA board and run for city GOP chairman simultaneously.

"Big step, but for a worthy cause," McColgan texted.

Same name, no crimes

Two weeks ago, we received an invitation to a fund-raiser for district attorney candidate Rich Negrin, scheduled for Thursday night at Pipeline Philly. The email listed one of the hosts as "Vanessa Brown."

You mean State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, who is  awaiting trial on bribery and related offenses and who initially had agreed to plead guilty but changed her mind at the last minute in the summer of 2015?

No. We were told then it was a different Vanessa Brown, and on Thursday, Negrin's campaign sent out another invitation listing the host as "Vanessa Rene'e Brown," who presumably has never accepted envelopes of cash from an undercover operative posing as a lobbyist.

Clout appreciates the clarification. But we're still not contributing to your campaign, Rich.

Daily News turns 92

Today is the Daily News' birthday and we celebrate its heritage: crime and political corruption.

The big story on Day One – March 31, 1925 – was classic tabloid: "Watchman Wounded By Suspect."

The bigger story, not mentioned, was that the Daily News was born so that political boss William Scott Vare could get a newspaper endorsement for a U.S. Senate seat. Powerful publisher Lee Ellmaker was cast as the paper's creator, but it was Vare's boodle, not Ellmaker's, that launched it.

Vare ran the city's Republican machine, doled out city contracts, and even calmed organized crime, making sure that Waxey Gordon and Lucky Luciano kept him in the loop.

Alas, even though Vare was elected to the Senate in 1926, Gov. Gifford Pinchot and the U.S. Senate refused to seat him after an investigation into voter fraud.

Vare dumped the paper, selling it to health-faddist Bernarr MacFadden. The poor, rags-covered, orphaned paper went from owner to owner over the next nine decades.

But it never forgot its origins.

Still loves to write about gangster bosses: Angelo Bruno, Phil Testa, Nicky Scarfo, Joey Merlino (two of whom were murdered).

Still loves to write about shady politicians: City Councilmen George X. Schwartz, Harry Jannotti, Louis Johanson, Lee Beloff, Jimmy Tayoun and Rick Mariano, State Rep. John Perzel, State Sen. Vince Fumo, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah,  Attorney General Kathleen Kane … oh, that list goes on forever.

And the Daily News is still kicking. Happy 92nd birthday, DN! We hope you make it to 93.

Staff writers Chris Brennan and William Bender, and retired Daily News assistant managing editor Gar Joseph contributed to this column. Tips: