Regular readers of Clout know that next year’s Pennsylvania races for governor and U.S. Senate are taking up a lot of oxygen as potential candidates size up the field.
But there’s another factor some Democrats are weighing, and that’s what’s happening behind the scenes in a different 2022 race: the 2nd Congressional District, covering all of Northeast Philly and much of North Philadelphia east of Broad Street.
Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat, is in his fourth term in that seat, and change is on the horizon. The once-a-decade redistricting is likely to alter the district’s demographics. And a rumored Boyle move has sparked interest from State Sen. Sharif Street.
Clout heard this week that Boyle may have been interested in going from Northeast Philly to the northeastern corner of Ireland if President Joe Biden appointed him as the U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland.
“I do know that some other people who are privy to these issues have suggested that that was a possibility,” said Steve Cozen, a Philadelphia lawyer and fund-raiser who knows both Biden and Boyle. “Brendan has made it clear that, if that happens, he would love to do that.”
To try to confirm, Clout on Tuesday called White House deputy press secretary Christopher Meagher. He didn’t respond until after this article was published Friday — and denied the whole affair.
“He’s not under consideration by the White House, he’s not going to be under consideration, at no point has he expressed interest, and he’s not going to be the Envoy to Northern Ireland,” Meagher said in a statement. “He’s a valued member of Congress and the Ways & Means Committee where he’s working close [with] the [White House] to advance the President’s Build Back Better agenda.
Because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, the U.S. does not appoint an ambassador. But the U.S. has sent a special diplomatic envoy there since Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Boyle this week told Clout he “can’t comment on any conversations” he’s had with White House officials and is “focused on all the work I have to do” on Biden’s infrastructure bill. But after the White House statement Friday, he sounded a lot more definitive.
“At no point have I ever expressed an interest in being the Special Envoy — not to the White House, not to anyone. Anyone saying that I have is simply making it up,” he said in a statement.
The district could become more suburban by taking in parts of Montgomery or Bucks Counties — or it could end up including more predominantly Black neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. Boyle and any other potential candidates would have to judge whether that helps or hurts their chances.
Street has been exploring a U.S. Senate run. But a Democratic insider familiar with Street’s thinking says the North Philadelphia Democrat is expected to shift his focus to the 2nd District if it were to become vacant.
Another person who was rumored to be eyeing Boyle’s seat is City Councilmember Helen Gym, the face of the city’s progressive movement. But a Gym spokesperson categorically ruled out the potential of her running for this or any other U.S. House seat.
“Helen is not planning to run for that office and has never really considered it,” spokesperson Brendan McPhillips said. “That job just isn’t of interest for her right now.”
Perhaps the 2023 mayor’s race will be more interesting for Gym.
More ‘magic seats’ for judges
Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee has two more “magic seats” to fill since Clout explained two weeks ago the ability to conjure up new judges from thin air.
The party’s Policy Committee meets Tuesday to fill six slots — four on Common Pleas Court, two on Municipal Court. The party’s ward leaders are set to vote Wednesday and are expected to follow the Policy Committee’s lead.
Magic seats happen when incumbent judges up for a retention vote withdraw from the general election ballot, creating spots for party-picked substitute candidates who can win a full term.
Clout hears there are three solid locks for Common Pleas seats — State Sen. John Sabatina Jr., Monica Gibbs, assistant general counsel at the Delaware River Port Authority, and Judge Mark Moore, now serving an appointment that expires in January.
There is a scramble for the remaining three magic seats, which are also sometimes called “golden tickets.” Consider the salary for a judge who doesn’t have to run for office, raise money, court ward leaders, and worry about ballot position. A Common Pleas seat pays $186,665 annually for a 10-year term. A Municipal Court seat pays $182,346 annually for a six-year term.
Among the known contenders: Henry Sias, who ran for judge in 2017 and 2019 and works for the state Superior Court; James Eisenhower, who twice ran for state attorney general and now serves on the Judicial Board of Discipline; Vincent Melchiorre, who served two appointments as a judge and ran for the post in 2015 and 2017; and attorneys Leanne Litwin and Wade Albert.
Four Common Pleas judges — Robert Rebstock, Gary Glazer, James Murray Lynn, and Arnold New — and Municipal Court Judges Gerald Kosinski and Marsha Neifield dropped off the ballot by Thursday’s deadline. New withdrew last week and Neifield did so this week.
Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.