WITH FIVE Republicans seeking two open City Council at-large seats in the Nov. 8 general election, we're not surprised to hear that voters were receiving calls in a push poll this week.

We were surprised to hear that one of the candidates criticized in the push poll is paying for it.

The pollster, using the bogus business name Atlantic Opinion Response, asks voters what they think of the candidates: state Rep. Denny O'Brien, lawyer David Oh, Northeast Chamber of Commerce head Al Taubenberger, financial consultant Joe McColgan and lawyer Michael Untermeyer.

Then the pollster pushes negative questions about three candidates: Oh misled voters about his military service; O'Brien will be eligible for two government pensions if elected; and Taubenberger cares more about business than neighborhoods.

We tracked the poll to a call center of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees outside Tacoma, Wash. AFSCME refused to say whom the poll was being done for or why the pollsters were using a fake business name.

We reached out to all of the candidates, and Taubenberger told us that he was paying for the poll.

Taubenberger, who noted that the two AFSCME unions that represent city blue-collar and white-collar workers endorsed him in the primary, said that he considers the election a three-way race for two seats among himself, Oh and O'Brien. He is using the poll to test negative perceptions, but was surprised the pollster said that he didn't care about neighborhoods.

"I didn't know they were beating me up that badly," he said. "That's a little rough."

The debate on debates

Diop Olugbala held a protest outside of Fox 29's studios yesterday, trying to win entry into a mayoral debate that the station will tape Tuesday to be aired Friday.

"I represent an entirely different kind of politics that needs to be heard," said Olugbala, a member of the International Peoples' Democratic Uhuru Movement who is running as an independent.

Fox 29 doesn't agree.

A Fox spokeswoman in New York emailed this statement: "Diop Olugbala will not be a part of FOX 29's mayoral debate."

Olugbala will be on the ballot under his legal name, Wali Rahman, because a judge last week rejected his petition to be listed by his taken name, Olugbala.

Olugbala was arrested in March 2009 for scuffling with police while protesting Mayor Nutter's City Hall budget address. He was sentenced in October to two years' probation and to anger-management classes.

Karen Brown, the Republican nominee for mayor, tells us that she is using her primary opponent, John Featherman, as a stand-in for Nutter while she prepares for the Fox 29 debate.

We found that interesting for three reasons.

Brown skipped a chance in April to debate Featherman at an event organized by some members of the Republican party.

Featherman, during a joint appearance on NBC 10 in May, called Brown a "straw candidate" recruited by Republican leaders.

And Featherman tells us he is not supporting or endorsing Brown's campaign or views.

Rather, he's helping her as a favor to his ward leader and to avoid looking like a "sore loser."

Brown hopes that her past clashes with Featherman will help now.

"That's why I asked him to do it," she said. "I wanted people who would be adversarial."

Get well soon, Toby

Anyone who spends time at City Hall knows that we have two mayors, Nutter and Toby Rich, a writer for The Scoop weekly newspaper who is known to many as the Mayor of Girard Avenue.

Rich, 57, suffered a stroke last week and is on the mend, but is still a bit shaken.

He is a colorful character who roams the halls of City Hall and often asks long, leading questions at Nutter's news conferences.

Rich says he will return to City Hall and his writing soon.

"The doctor says I gotta rest and eat better food," he said. "I'm going to take a little time off."


"Look, I'm just honored to receive their support. My campaign continues to gain momentum across the city, and this is yet another sign that voters are looking for honesty and integrity in their elected officials." - GOP Council at-large candidate Joe McColgan, after the FOP this week gave him the endorsement it revoked from David Oh last month.