As the Democratic primary campaign enters its frantic final days, four City Council members, including two of the body's newest, are looking vulnerable as they try to fend off determined opponents.
The evidence of this political jeopardy is anecdotal, but interviews with the candidates and party regulars suggest that Carol Ann Campbell and Daniel Savage, two ward leaders elected in a special election last November, are facing possible defeat.
In the northwest, Councilwoman Donna Miller, who since 1995 has never won more than half the vote in multi-candidate primary battles, faces three formidable opponents and also could go down.
And in the often-inscrutable race for the five at-large Council nominations, freshman Councilman Juan Ramos faces the most hurdles among the five incumbents seeking renomination.
Though he has the party endorsement, there are widespread rumors that Ramos will get cut off sample ballots that ward leaders hand out Election Day, particularly in the Northeast. The reason is anger over his attempt to replace ward leader Helen Farrell.
At the end of April, Ramos had only $32,000 to turn his situation around. His situation is complicated further by the substantially better ballot position of former state Rep. Ben Ramos, who's running a shoestring campaign.
Meanwhile, two sons of mayors, Sharif Street and Bill Green, are mounting well-financed runs featuring endorsements. Fellow at-large member Bill Greenlee, elected in a special election last November, appears to be cementing much broader party, union and civic support than Ramos.
Here's an overview of how the primary season has played out for the endangered district incumbents:
The 4th District: For 14 years the home of former Councilman Michael Nutter, the district stretches from Overbrook Park, Overbrook and Wynnefield in West Philadelphia across the Schuylkill River to East Falls, Manayunk and Roxborough.
Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell, a ward leader and ally of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, won her seat in a special election last November. Since then, she's gotten Council to establish a new committee focused on the handicapped. A weak public speaker, she's had little presence in Council chambers and her campaign has been equally quiet.
She's facing two well-financed, hard-charging candidates who are carpeting the district with direct mail and billboards, using aggressive phone-banking and door-knocking.
Curtis Jones Jr., the recent president of the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corp., is a former head of the Minority Business Enterprise Council in the Goode administration in the late 1980s.
Jones is an ally of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and has support from various unions including the Electricians Local 98 and the Laborers.
Matthew McClure is a real estate lawyer who worked in the Rendell administration and later at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He's been endorsed by mayoral candidate Tom Knox. An East Falls resident, McClure has raised almost $180,000 from more than 500 donors, no small feat given the city's tough contributions limits.
Jones has raised and spent more than $100,000, using billboards and SEPTA bus ads along with direct mail to get his name in front of voters, though he appeared to be tapped out according to his latest campaign-expense reports.
Campbell's report showed limited spending so far and an enormous war chest of $133,000 for her stretch drive. She will also rely on the party organization. McClure had $80,000 on hand.
The 7th District: In a district that zigzags from Hunting Park and Kensington to the Northeast, Councilman Daniel Savage has strong party support and an ample war chest of at least $72,000.
Since his special-election victory in November, Savage, the son of a federal judge and former ward leader, has made a cause of increasing the number of probation officers to deal with the growing street violence.
Savage's stiffest challenge is coming from Maria Quinones Sanchez, a former official with the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration who earlier ran an educational nonprofit and worked in City Council and the city commissioner's office.
In a district that is roughly half Hispanic, Quinones Sanchez has been heartily endorsed by Gov. Rendell and a number of unions and reform groups. Savage counters with endorsements from the party, a host of unions, District Attorney Lynne Abraham and former U.S. Rep. Bob Borski.
The third challenger is community activist Marni Aument Loughrey, daughter of Donna Aument, the ward leader in Ward 33 in the heart of the district.
Quinones Sanchez, who had just $6,600 left, is hoping her message of reform will resonate with voters who had to suffer through the corruption of former Councilman Rick Mariano, now serving a federal prison sentence. She was drubbed by Mariano in the 1999 primary.
The 8th District: In the district that runs from upper North Philadelphia through Germantown, Mount Airy and up to Chestnut Hill, incumbent Miller faces three opponents.
Former Community Legal Services lawyer Irv Ackelsberg has run a sharp-edged campaign questioning Miller's role in redeveloping parts of the district and noting that her chief of staff went to federal prison on corruption charges. Ackelsberg has raised more than $100,000.
Cindy Bass, a policy consultant to Chaka Fattah, has been endorsed by Tom Knox. She's a past president of the East Mount Airy Neighbors. Whether Bass can eat into Miller's base of support in Germantown is unclear, though she's been knocking on doors there for a week. She has about $10,000 for her final days, less than half of what Miller and Ackelsberg had left as of April 30.
Greg Paulmier, a Germantown ward leader and landlord, is facing off with Miller for the third time, including a strong second in 2003. His candidacy was in limbo for weeks because of a court challenge, but he's planning a substantial Election Day effort in Germantown and North Philadelphia.
One veteran elected official in the district said the race is just too jumbled and close to call.
"I don't have any idea how it's going to play out," the official said. *