The itinerant congressional campaign by Lindy Li continues to confound Clout and now, it seems, also U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of Philadelphia's Democratic City Committee.
Li, who has been a candidate in search of a district for more than two years, showed up last week at Philly For Change, a progressive group that holds the most visually stimulating political meetings in the city, based on the venue of a graffiti-covered upstairs room at the South Street bar Tattooed Mom.
The organizers described Li, a Democrat, in social-media posts before and after the event, as a candidate for the First District, a seat held by Brady since 1998.
"She said she was running in the First District, but things sounded slightly up in the air," said Sam Durso, one of the organizers.
Li told us she didn't mention the First District, except to ask why she had been described that way in the social-media posts.
"Generally loath to speak in absolutes, but I'm almost completely certain that I myself didn't mention PA1," Li told us in an email.
Li's campaign history includes plans to run in the Seventh District (in the suburbs) in 2016 and a switch to the Sixth District (also in the suburbs) that was then dropped amid a legal challenge to her eligibility to be on the ballot. She's campaigning full time now but refusing to say in what district she'll run.
Brady said Li has repeatedly told him she would not challenge him in next year's primary election.
"I think she's a little confused," Brady said. "She likes being a candidate. She likes to talk to people who make her relevant."
Brady and Li both say she recently offered to set up a meeting for the congressman with her fellow Princeton University alum Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, who is searching for a city in which to locate a second headquarters for his company.
And both say Brady offered Li a chairmanship for a congressional task force on the EB5 Visa program, which allows investors to immigrate to America if they sink $1 million into an enterprise here.
Complicating Li's search for a district: She and her father this summer bought a $388,000 condo overlooking Rittenhouse Square, in the Second Congressional District, a seat held by Rep. Dwight Evans since November.
Li, a former wealth manager with Morgan Stanley, told us not to read too much into the location of her new home.
As the 197th turns
Emilio Vazquez, a Democratic ward leader, has been a state representative for five months, representing North Philadelphia's 197th District, after winning a March 21 special election.
The effort to unseat him grinds on in federal court. U.S. District Judge Joel H. Slomsky heard 90 minutes of arguments Thursday from lawyers for defendants — the City Commissioners, the Democratic City Committee, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, state House Speaker Mike Turzai — who want him to dismiss lawsuits filed by Republican nominee Lucinda Little, Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala, and two other candidates, Orlando Acosta and Edward Lloyd.
Because of a series of comical missteps, only Little did what it took to get her name listed on the ballot. Vazquez, Honkala, Acosta, and Lloyd ran write-in campaigns. Vazquez won with 73.5 percent of the vote in the district, where Democrats make up 85 percent of the registered voters.
The lawsuits, seeking to overturn that result, allege that Election Board members actively campaigned in polling places for Vazquez, urging or intimidating voters to support him. The District Attorney's Office and state Attorney General's Office is still investigating those claims.
Only one thing is certain: This isn't over. Slomsky said the lawyers could file a new round of briefs in the matter, probably six weeks from now, before he rules on whether the case will move forward.
A third win for the City Commissioners
A brief dispatch from the never-ending war between the Philadelphia City Commissioners and the Committee of Seventy/Philadelphia 3.0.
Last spring, the Committee of Seventy (good-government types) and Philadelphia 3.0 (a political action committee) filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court arguing that Common Pleas President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper was required under state election law to replace the City Commissioners when a ballot question is asking for a Home Rule Charter amendment.
The plaintiffs argued that the City Commissioners would be overseeing an election asking voters to weigh in on a change in procurement practices that would affect the City Commissioners. So, a conflict.
The Supreme Court dismissed the case in April without explanation. Seventy and 3.0 refiled it a week later in Common Pleas Court and lost there, too. Then they appealed to the Commonwealth Court. This week, they lost again, when the Commonwealth Court affirmed the previous ruling.
Gotta give them points for persistence, though.
"We're disappointed in the Court's decision," said Committee of Seventy CEO David Thornburgh said in a statement Thursday. "But this particular lawsuit focused on just one of many serious problems with the Office of the City Commissioners. The campaign to reform local elections in Philadelphia must move forward."
Staff writers Chris Brennan and William Bender contributed to this column. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.