CITY COMMISSIONER Anthony Clark could have spent the entire election season under the bed covers in his lux Brewerytown condo, perhaps reading The Great Gatsby in his pajamas, and he still would have coasted to victory in yesterday's election.
Clark, who has been tough to find in person in his City Hall office and notoriously hard to get on the phone, was the top vote-getter in the commissioners' race, winning 152,415 votes, as of 11 p.m. yesterday, with more than 97 percent of the vote counted.
Not that it was really a "race," or that voters had much choice.
Clark, a Democrat, ran unopposed, as did the two other candidates for city commissioner: Democrat Lisa Deeley and incumbent Republican Al Schmidt. Clark, Deeley and Schmidt were the only candidates running for three seats. Deeley, a lifelong resident of Rhawnhurst, came in second with 151,153 votes. Schmidt won his second term with 37,105 votes.
"It's a very frustrating situation that voters don't have any way of expressing their unhappiness," said David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. "There were three candidates for three seats. I guess if you were unhappy with any of those three, the best you could do was not vote . . . but they [were] still guaranteed to win."
Clark, 56, easily won his third four-year term yesterday, despite a sea of bad ink in the months leading up to the 2015 primary and general elections. Media outlets reported:
* Clark, who, as chairman of the commissioners' office, oversees city elections and voter registration, failed to vote for nearly three years while in office. He also didn't bother to vote in a special election this past August.
* Clark didn't routinely show up for work to earn his nearly $138,611 taxpayer-funded annual salary. One commissioners' office employee nicknamed him "The $139,000 Invisible Man."
* The city Board of Ethics levied $4,000 in fines against Clark for ethics violations in connection with efforts to secure a pay raise for his brother, Alexander Clark. Clark's brother, who earns $35,265, got a job at the commissioners' office in August 2008 as a "trades helper" after Clark was first elected in 2007. As part of a June settlement agreement with the ethics board, Clark promised to take part in ethics training.
Last month, the Committee of Seventy joined forces with three civic-minded political groups - Philadelphia 3.0, Philly Set Go and 5th Square - to try to find out how Clark spent his time on the public dime.
Alison Perelman, executive director of Philadelphia 3.0, said the coalition had hoped to have a response to an Oct. 6 Right-to-Know Request, seeking Clark's work hours, emails, public calendar, cellphone records and more, before Election Day. In an interview on Monday, Perelman said she had yet to receive a response.
Perelman attributed Clark's election victory, in large part, to the fact that the Democratic City Committee, headed by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, endorsed Clark in both the primary and general elections.
Voter apathy and low turnout also played a role, according to Perelman and Thornburgh.
"I hate to come to the conclusion that people just don't care about whether elected officials are showing up for work," Thornburgh said. "That is very depressing."
He added: "Part of the problem is, I think, if you ran out in the street and asked the first 15 people who walked by, most of them wouldn't know that we have elected city commissioners. They wouldn't be able to tell you what they do. They wouldn't be able to tell you who they are. So that's one of the reasons why I think we should question the continuing existence of these row offices."
So-called row offices include the commissioners' office, the city register of wills and the Sheriff's Office. In those races, the election held no surprises.
With more than 95 percent of the vote counted as of 10:15 p.m., Democratic incumbent Ronald Donatucci won his 10th term as register of wills. Donatucci began his first term in 1980. He garnered more than 160,000 votes, beating his Republican opponent, Ross Feinberg, who received roughly 32,000 votes.
Democratic incumbent Sheriff Jewell Williams, with more than 151,000 votes, won re-election against GOP opponent Christopher Sawyer, a self-described "Kensington-based anti-blight activist," with nearly 40,600 votes.
On Twitter: @wendyruderman