100+ people ran for City Council at the height of anti-Rizzo furor. Could it happen again? | Clout
A cancer biologist. A Bernie Sanders delegate. A Women's March Organizer. Those are just some of the dozens of potential candidates for City Council at-large.
It was 1979, and Frank Rizzo was the loathed and loved mayor of Philadelphia.
Six months earlier, he'd tried and failed to change the City Charter so he could run for a third term. Liberals, young people, and African Americans were incensed — and empowered.
Charles Bowser was running to be the city's first black mayor. Bill Green, a former congressman backing a slate of anti-establishment reformers, was running, too. Tens of thousands of people of color had recently registered to vote for the first time.
All that energy led a record-breaking 101 Democrats to run for City Council at-large seats.
Since then, the city hasn't come close to seeing that big a stampede. Could that change now that President Trump — or, as Philadelphia Magazine once called him, "Rizzo, reborn" — is in office?
Another triple-digit slate of at-large candidates seems unlikely. But political analysts see a 2019 surge brewing.
In fact, Clout has counted about two dozen challengers who are rumored to be thinking about — or have already started — campaigning for one of Council's seven at-large seats. The primary is still more than eight months away.
"There's a Trump effect," said Mustafa Rashed, a local Democratic political consultant. "More people are running for office, especially female candidates. Women see the things coming out of the nation's capital and are concerned."
On the Democratic side, at least three people have declared that they're running: Eryn Santamoor, ex-aide to former Mayor Michael Nutter; Beth Finn, a local Women's March organizer; and Joe Cox, a left-wing bike messenger.
Then there are a couple of Democrats who are candidates in all but name. Isaiah Thomas, an educator who ran unsuccessfully for Council at-large in 2011 and 2015, has held several fundraisers since January. Justin DiBerardinis, a former Council aide whose father, Michael, is Mayor Kenney's managing director, organized a meet-and-greet in August.
Those Democrats told City & State PA that they are eyeing a run. So did Fernando Trevino-Martinez, a local political consultant and ex-deputy executive director under Nutter.
Meanwhile, Clout beat the bushes and found even more Democrats thinking about it: Nina Ahmad, who came in second place in this year's state primary for lieutenant governor; Erika Almiron, executive director of the immigrant-rights group Juntos; Sherrie Cohen, daughter of the late progressive Councilman David Cohen; Melissa Robbins, a past Democratic National Convention delegate for Bernie Sanders; Adrian Rivera-Reyes, a cancer biologist and labor organizer; Edwin Santana, a previous candidate for the state House, and last but not least, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III, who is pondering a comeback after voters showed him the door this primary.
There could be a competitive race for the two at-large seats set aside for members of minority political parties, too. GOP businesswoman Irina Goldstein informed Clout that she is running; Republican ward leaders Dan Tinney and Bill Heeney, meanwhile, said they are seriously considering a campaign.
As if those weren't enough names for voters to pore over, Clout hears that left-wingers are thinking about running for the two minority at-large seats on City Council. They could do so as, say, members of the Green Party or independents.
They've done it before. But they haven't been successful. In an era in which the Democratic Socialists of America is getting candidates nominated for Congress, though, it seems more possible than ever.
Is the Steamfitters union starting a super PAC?
The local Steamfitters union is slowly but surely amassing a huge war chest.
Four years ago, the labor group's PAC had about $90,000. Today, Local 420 has more than $1.7 million on hand, according to recent campaign finance reports.
What's the union going to do with all that cash? Rumor is the Steamfitters are planning to start a super PAC for Dan Tinney, the potential Republican at-large candidate, who is also a card-carrying member of the union.
Tinney ran for Council at-large in 2015 and lost.
When we asked Steamfitters leader Anthony Gallagher if the scuttlebutt was true, he didn't exactly say no.
"Dan Tinney is a Steamfitter who understands our issues personally," he said. "If he decides to run again, we'll look at every opportunity we have to support him and help him win."
Tinney seems to be a favorite among some local GOP leaders, too.
Last weekend, the city's Republican Party held its biggest annual fundraiser, the 34th Billy Meehan Clambake. GOP secretary Jim Pio served as master of ceremonies and shouted out Tinney for serving as chairman of the event.
"He's got a big race coming up. He needs our support," Pio said of Tinney, a clear reference to next year's Republican primary for Council at-large. "This guy is really going to need our help next year."
That was a little awkward. After all, Republican City Councilmen at-large Al Taubenberger and David Oh were there. Heck, Taubenberger was on stage with Pio earlier that day. He and Oh hold the two at-large seats guaranteed to members of minority political parties.
Michael Meehan, leader of the city's GOP, said he expects six to eight people to seek those two seats next year.
"They both have issues," he said of Taubenberger and Oh. "There's a lot of people mad at Council on the Republican side who think these guys should be standing up and saying things."