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GOP facing serious contest for at-large Council seat

If you're not paying attention to the City Council races, it's about time to start.

If you're not paying attention to the City Council races, it's about time to start.

With five members retiring and several more seats competitive, the next Council will have the most freshmen members since 1991 when seven newcomers were elected.

The Daily News will break down everything you need to know about the competitive races in coming days.

Republican at-large

The city charter says two of the seven at-large Council seats go to the top vote-getters who are not part of the majority party in control. That has meant two guaranteed Republican seats for decades. The local GOP now finds itself in turmoil, split between an old guard protecting the status quo and an insurgent group that longs to be more competitive.

Complicating matters is news that former Mayor John Street has switched his voter registration from Democrat to independent and is considering a run for one of the two minority-party at-large seats in the Nov. 8 general election. With strong name recognition, Street could probably win that race, which would leave just one seat for the GOP.

Who's running:

_ City Councilman Frank Rizzo, 67, is seeking a fifth term, running without the GOP endorsement and facing heavy criticism for his participation in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

_ State Rep. Denny O'Brien, 58, former speaker of the state House.

_ Malcolm Lazin, 67, founder of Equality Forum, who twice ran for district attorney against Ed Rendell.

_ Al Taubenberger, 57, the GOP nominee for mayor in 2007 and head of the Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

_ David Oh, 51, an attorney who came very close to winning an at-large seat in 2007.

_ Michael Untermeyer, 60, a former candidate for D.A.

_ Joe McColgan, 48, a financial manager who previously ran for the U.S. House.

_ Elmer Money, 45, a fiscal distribution representative at Abington Memorial Hospital.

_ Stephen Odabashian, 41, an attorney who also works in music and comedy.

Debate: 7 p.m. May 12, WHYY, Lincoln Studio, 150 N. Sixth St.

Key issues: A GOP at-large seat does not come with much sway over City Council policy. Rizzo and Councilman Jack Kelly, who is retiring this year, have supported niche causes like traffic control and the care of abandoned animals in the city.

Who has the edge?

This is a battle of name recognition. Polls show Rizzo and O'Brien, who is popular in his Northeast Philly legislative district, leading the pack.

Oh and Taubenberger hope to build on their efforts in the 2007 campaign.

Street remains the wild card.

For other installments in this series, see