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Clout: In the politics gamble, 7 is unlucky

CALL IT the curse of City Council's 7th District, that oddly shaped swath of land that twists from just east of Temple University in North Philly to the Bustleton section of Northeast Philly.

CALL IT the curse of City Council's 7th District, that oddly shaped swath of land that twists from just east of Temple University in North Philly to the Bustleton section of Northeast Philly.

Incumbents run into trouble with alarming frequency there.

A brief two-decade history:

Rick Mariano ran the 1991 campaign for Democrat Dan McElhatton, who beat Republican Jack Kelly. Mariano turned on McElhatton four years later and won the seat with the Democratic Party endorsement.

Mariano went to federal prison on corruption charges in 2006. Dan Savage, the 23rd Ward leader, was chosen by his fellow ward leaders for a special election.

Maria Quinones-Sanchez beat Savage in the 2007 Democratic primary, even though he had the support of the party.

Now Savage, who took a leave this month from his job at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, wants the seat back.

And it looks like most of the ward leaders in the district are going to try to help him.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, says that he isn't picking sides but expects that Savage will win the ward leaders. Brady said he will back Savage if that's how the party endorsement goes.

Not that you should rule out Quinones-Sanchez, Brady advises.

"She took Danny out," he said of the 2007 election. "Danny was endorsed and she beat him."

Quinones-Sanchez said that not having the party's endorsement would save her the $20,000 she would be expected to pony up for the favor.

"I would hope that they would follow their long-standing process of endorsing incumbents," Quinones-Sanchez said. "But I'm prepared now, as I was last time, to run without it."

McElhatton sees some similarities to his 1995 defeat by Mariano, like the potential for low voter turnout in the mayoral primary.

"With a very low turnout, the party apparatus has a base of people who will support their candidate," he said.

Savage referred questions about the endorsement to John Sabatina, leader of the 56th Ward and head of the caucus of ward leaders in the district.

Sabatina, who helped Savage win the 2006 special election, did not return our phone call yesterday.

Vito not welcome at the party

The Pennsylvania Republican Party, which stripped Philadelphia GOP Chairman Vito Canuso of his title in September but immediately reinstated him, took the title away again last weekend.

Confused? Let us explain.

A group of local Republicans last year claimed that Canuso had been re-elected chairman due to some improper voting. They complained to state party officials, who investigated and then declared that there were "numerous irregularities" in the election.

The party's credential committee took Canuso's title and called for a new election. State party Chairman Rob Gleason reinstated Canuso, saying that the matter would be dealt with after the Nov. 2 general election.

That finally happened last weekend, when the state party refused to recognize Canuso at a meeting to endorse candidates running for judge this year. But that's about the extent of it. The state party won't stop Canuso from acting as chairman here.

"As far as we're concerned, we can't decide who the chairman of any county committee is," GOP executive director Mike Barley said yesterday.

Canuso said that he doesn't care about the state-party action, but took a shot at Gleason anyway.

"He's doing his job as state chairman," Canuso said. "Just think of how good a job he would do if he would stay out of Philadelphia. We might have had more congressmen elected. But that's besides the point."

Featherman needs GOP fight

You would think that John Featherman, the only Republican who has declared a run for mayor this year, would be psyched that nobody else from his party wants to get into the race.

But Featherman is a political insurgent, part of a group that wants the Republican Party to stop acting like a subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

So he could really use a GOP primary challenger to attack.

He worries that an uncontested primary will mean little attention from the media and pollsters. He's right.

Michael Meehan, general counsel for the Republican City Committee, said that the search continues for a candidate to endorse.

One Republican ward leader asked us this week if we'd be interested in running for mayor. But he was only kidding. We think.

Meehan told us that it is "highly unlikely" that the party will back Featherman if no other candidate steps up for the primary.

The GOP faces a tough challenge. Imagine considering a run for mayor as a Republican in Philadelphia - where Democrats have a 6-to-1 voter advantage - but first you have to mud-wrestle Featherman in a primary.

That's like being ordered to shoot yourself in the leg before heading off on a suicide mission.

Staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

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