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Black ward leaders balk at Rendell-Evans GOTV breakfast

It was billed as a "get out the vote" breakfast for African American ward leaders in Philadelphia. Then the rumors and recriminations started.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (left), chairman of the Democratic City Committee in Philadelphia, said it was a mistake for U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (center) and former Gov. Ed Rendell (right) to call a breakfast meeting of African-American ward leaders on Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (left), chairman of the Democratic City Committee in Philadelphia, said it was a mistake for U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (center) and former Gov. Ed Rendell (right) to call a breakfast meeting of African-American ward leaders on Saturday.Read moreStaff photos

GOTV usually stands in politics for "get out the vote."

But for former Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a breakfast meeting they hosted Saturday could be better described as Gossip Overtakes the Victuals.

Rendell and Evans set up the event at the Bellevue on South Broad Street. On the menu: eggs, bacon, assorted pastries, and an exhortation for the invited African American Democratic ward leaders and elected officials to get out the vote in Tuesday's general election for two statewide black candidates — Dwayne Woodruff for Supreme Court and Carolyn Nichols for Superior Court.

Then came the rumors and recriminations.

The majority of the members of the United Ward Leaders of Color, which represents more than 20 black Democratic ward leaders in the city, decided to boycott the breakfast. Only five or so turned up Saturday.

There were two factors driving the hostility — Rendell in April told City and State that U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, should rein in the power of ward leaders in the city.

"Now he wants to hold a breakfast for us?" said Edgar "Sonny" Campbell, leader of the United Ward Leaders of Color and a close ally of Brady. "We were very disturbed about the comments he made about us."

The other factor: a rumor that the GOTV effort was really a cover for a meeting to push Evans as a possible successor to Brady as party chairman.

This was a particularly sensitive time for that rumor to land. Two of Brady's political consultants — Ken Smukler and Don "D.A." Jones — were indicted last week, accused of attempting to hide campaign contributions from Brady's political action committee to former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, a 2012 primary election rival who then dropped his challenge. Moore and his former campaign manager have pleaded guilty to not reporting the contributions.

We asked State Sen. Anthony H. Williams, a ward leader who skipped the breakfast, what he had heard about all that. Williams was teed up, starting his remarks with: "Ed Rendell — God rest his political soul."

He added: "There's a head of the party. When there's a vacancy, we'll let everyone know."

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell told us she also boycotted after getting calls from other United Ward Leaders of Color members.

Pete Wilson, a West Philly ward leader, decided to check out the breakfast. He said Evans told him "point blank" he had no interest in becoming party chairman.

"Bob's the chairman," Wilson said. "Now, he has a lot of stuff going on around him. Whether he's pulled into any of that, nobody knows."

Rendell was unavailable for comment. For days. Go figure.

Evans said the event drew a great crowd and the rumor-mongering is putting the focus on the wrong thing.

"It was about turning out the vote," he said. "Strictly about turning out the vote."

Evans also said he told Brady, when he came calling, that he was not looking to run for party chairman.

Brady confirmed that but still thinks the breakfast was a mistake.

"They should never split the party up," he said. "I'm color-blind. I would never have a meeting with just one group."

Will the rumors clear up? Hard to say, especially given Brady's tepid responses to our last two questions.

Is he definitely running for another term in the U.S. House next year?

"Yeah, why not?" he shrugged

Is he definitely running for another term as party chairman next year?

"If they keep me," he said of the ward leaders. "It's up to them."

The return of Tim O’Brien

We noticed two things about the most recent campaign finance report filed by Beth Grossman, the Republican nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia. She raised $76,970 from Sept. 19 to Oct. 23, a noticeable uptick for her political action committee. And $5,500 of that was paid in the same time period to Tim O'Brien, a campaign consultant.

You may recall O'Brien as the guy who served five four-year terms as bail commissioner in the First Judicial District. Or you may remember him as the guy who pleaded guilty in October 2014 to simple assault and recklessly endangering another person after his second domestic violence arrest in 2013 involving his then-girlfriend.

O'Brien stood in for Grossman two weeks ago when the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association held a candidate forum. The Northeast Times reports O'Brien claimed Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee in the race, "does not talk often about victims."

Grossman said she has known O'Brien for 20 years and had a "very frank discussion" with him about his conviction.

"I believe in giving people a second chance at redemption," she said. "That has nothing to do with my advocacy for victims of crimes."

O'Brien, who was sentenced to probation that ended in April, said he accepted responsibility and "took my punishment." O'Brien also worked briefly last year as a city-paid consultant for City Councilman David Oh on criminal justice issues.

"I just think I have a right to move on with my life," he said. "This doesn't mean Beth doesn't care about victims."


"I like to joke sometimes that Council used to be less boring. When I do, I see Jimmy on the chamber floor, mixing it up with Fran Rafferty and John Street. God forbid we ever go back to that time, but it's an era I feel lucky to have personally witnessed. Jimmy Tayoun will never be forgotten."

— City Council President Darrell Clarke on the death Wednesday of Jimmy Tayoun, a former councilman turned federal prison inmate turned publisher of the Public Record. Tayoun's viewing will be held Friday from 6 from 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 10:30 a.m., followed by a Funeral Mass, all at St. Maron's Maronite Catholic Church, 1013 Ellsworth St. in South Philadelphia.

Staff writer Chris Brennan contributed to this column. Tips: