With new maps for Pennsylvania’s congressional districts dropping soon, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle is testing his political strength in an anticipated Democratic primary challenge from State Sen. Sharif Street.
Makes sense, since Street is helping the Senate redraw the boundaries of Boyle’s Northeast Philly-centered district as part of the statewide decennial redistricting process. A draft of a map that leaked this week seemed to bolster Street’s ambitions.
Boyle’s pollster, in a memo released by his campaign, said 58% of likely primary voters in the current district would return him to Congress for a fifth term while 18% support Street in a head-to-head challenge and 24% were undecided.
“Congressman Boyle already represents one of the most diverse districts in Pennsylvania and is very popular in his district,” Boyle campaign spokesperson Scott Heppard told Clout in an email.
Street dodged Thursday when asked if he will challenge Boyle and shrugged off the poll.
“He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do,” Street said. “He’s spent a lot of time polling. I’ve spent a lot of time working. He’ll still be polling. I’ll be working.”
Boyle did not release detailed results from the poll of 939 voters, conducted from Saturday to Tuesday, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.18%
The pollster’s memo also noted that Boyle, who had just under $2 million in his campaign account as of Sept. 30, holds a financial advantage that offers challengers “no credible path to victory.”
The 2d Congressional District’s current boundaries include Northeast Philadelphia, North Philadelphia east of Broad Street and stretches south to Race Street in Old City, with 36% of the residents white, 25% Black and 25% Hispanic. Parts of it overlap with Street’s state Senate seat.
Boyle in November — six months to the day ahead of May’s primary — announced that he had been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus. Boyle is white; Street is Black.
The poll asked voters about Boyle and Street before and after hearing positive biographical descriptions of their records. Clout spotted a contrast in those questions, with Boyle cast as “the son of a SEPTA janitor” and Street identified as “the son of former Philadelphia Mayor John Street.”
The pollster also tested opinions about City Councilmember Helen Gym, who has said she is not interested in running for the U.S. House in 2022, along with queries about the Fraternal Order of Police and Black Lives Matter. Results from those questions were not released by Boyle.
Small world: Boyle’s pollster was paid $140,000 as a political consultant this year for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, where Street is vice chair.
Al Schmidt’s aide up for top job
The clock is ticking for Mayor Jim Kenney to appoint a replacement for City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who will resign in the middle of this third term to take over on Jan. 3 as the new head for the Committee of Seventy.
Seth Bluestein, Schmidt’s aide for a decade, is the front-runner for the appointment, which must be confirmed by City Council.
Clout hears Kenney is concerned about bringing in an outsider who would have to learn the ropes so close to a high-profile midterm election and will likely favor a candidate who is already familiar with the commissioners’ work. That’s a good sign for Bluestein, a Republican like Schmidt.
Party labels matter because Schmidt holds a seat reserved for a member who is not part of the majority political party in Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 7-1.
Clout also hears Lisa Deeley, a Democrat and chair of the City Commissioners, has offered support for Bluestein to Kenney’s administration and City Council.
Nicolas O’Rourke, Pennsylvania organizer of the Working Families Party, this week called on Kenney to pick a third-party candidate who is not a Republican. O’Rourke said his party has not yet selected someone to propose for the post.
He praised Schmidt for his record of defending elections in Philadelphia but said he can’t trust any other Republican to do the same, considering how some in that party continue to push election misinformation and disinformation.
Schmidt has been open about the death threats he and his family endured for staunchly defending the integrity of the 2020 presidential election in Philadelphia. Bluestein, who declined to comment, received the same sort of abuse after an attorney for former President Donald Trump criticized him by name in a news conference the day after the 2020 election.
No ambassadorship for Jonathan Saidel
Jonathan Saidel, Philadelphia’s former four-term city controller and still unofficial master of ceremonies at Democratic City Committee events, will not be adding the title of U.S. ambassador to Malta to his resumé.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated for that post Constance Milstein, a New York attorney, businesswoman, philanthropist, and prominent Democratic Party donor.
Clout told you in February that Lee Saunders, national president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was pushing Saidel for the job.
Saidel, 70, this week said he told the White House he’s still open to any posting where he can help Pennsylvania.
“I’m too old to run for mayor and too young to run for president,” cracked Saidel, who is nearly a decade younger than Biden.
Staff writer Andrew Seidman contributed to this article.