HAS OLD AGE taken the fight out of political pugilist Marge Tartaglione? Sad but true.
"I was always into a good argument, always ready for a stand," Tartaglione said when reached by phone at her home earlier this week."I don't want to argue. I'm too tired."
Clout called the octogenarian former city commissioner chairwoman to get her thoughts on a 2010 Facebook post allegedly written by City Council candidate Manny Morales. The 2010 post on Morales' Facebook page (which he claims was hacked) heaped mud on the Tartaglione family.
"Tartaglione political family w/corruption in Philly City and PA State politics? Thanks state Rep. Angel Cruz for exposing them. Tartaglione Dictatorship collapsed & will end very soon," the Facebook post states.
Tartaglione, leader of Northeast Philly's 62nd ward, said she hadn't seen the post. She and most of the district's other ward leaders voted last month to endorse Morales, who is challenging Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez. You'd think she might be inclined to haul off and clock Morales in the head.
"Look, I'm 82 years old. I don't know what's what," Tartaglione told Clout, adding that she had open-heart surgery and is not in good health. "At the time, [Morales] he must have been angry at me. People say things when they are angry."
Was that really Marge?
This is a woman who once socked Norman Loudenslager, the late Demoractic Party treasurer and leader of the machinists union, in the jaw with enough force that the cigar between Loudenslager's teeth split in two.
Alas, her fighting days are over. We wish her well.
Embrace. Then back away slowly. Then run real fast.
That pretty much describes mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz's relationship with Morales over the past few days.
Diaz recently endorsed him for Sanchez's seat. Then, boom, Facebookgate exploded.
On Monday afternoon, Sanchez put out a packet of decidedly un-Democratic screen grabs that she said came from Morales' Facebook page. Morales said someone, likely Sanchez, hacked into his account. She called him a liar and a bigot.
The next day, Diaz remained on the fence, "The alleged comments and counter charges from each candidate are clearly inappropriate and extremely troubling, if corroborated," he said in a statement. "My campaign and I will continue to monitor the situation."
By yesterday, that monitoring turned into a full-throttled sprint in which Diaz not only distanced himself from Morales but "condemned his actions."
Diaz, a former Common Pleas judge, said: "My campaign has been asking Manny Morales to offer concrete evidence that the allegations against him cannot be corroborated.
"We haven't received such evidence, and as a result I am asking Manny Morales to issue an apology and withdraw from this race.
"I have spent my entire life as a dedicated advocate for civil rights, equal rights and human rights. I would never condone or support bigotry or hatred in any form."
Diaz might need a miracle to sweep into office - he's trailing almost all the other mayoral candidates in fundraising, ward endorsements and name recognition.
But short of a miracle, the former judge would at least take a minor celebrity.
Word on the street is that Diaz's campaign has been courting actor Jimmy Smits, best known for playing a hard-bitten detective on "NYPD Blue" and more recently as Nero, the pimp on "Sons of Anarchy."
A source familiar with Diaz's campaign said the idea would be to energize the Latino vote by bringing in Hispanic celebrities like Smits, who is half-Puerto Rican. Campaign workers were reportedly pushing the Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, a D.C. nonprofit co-founded by Smits, to set up a stump speech in the next month or so.
Would it be enough to push Diaz over the edge? One local political consultant said that even with the actor's endorsement, "Smits probably got more votes on 'West Wing' when he ran for president than Diaz will."
The campaign's ambitions may have exceeded Smits interest, however.
"I don't know anything about it, and I'm pretty much up to speed on everything Jimmy does," said Carol Marshall, Smits' publicist.
- Staff writer Wendy Ruderman and The Next Mayor's Ryan Briggs
contributed to this report.
On Twitter: @wendyruderman and @rw_briggs