Clout knows you’ve heard this before: A new rivalry is rising among Democrats in Northeast Philly.
The party has been in a factional fracas there that went public back in 2015 and flares up when a post with power is up for grabs. This time, it’s a seat in the state Senate. But that’s just for starters.
John Sabatina Jr. resigned in the Senate’s 5th District last Friday and was sworn in Monday as a Common Pleas Court judge. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has 10 days from the resignation to call a special election for someone to complete Sabatina’s Senate term, which runs through 2024.
State Rep. Ed Neilson and Shawn Dillon, the 66A Ward leader, are the front-runners to be selected in a meeting Monday of eight Democratic ward leaders with divisions in the 5th District.
Clout hears Dillon has the edge. But this is Northeast Philly. Break out The Godfather references.
“We’ve got a couple of Tessios in that crowd that are committed to both sides,” said Bob Brady, who chairs the Democratic City Committee.
Jim Donnelly, leader of the 58th Ward, backs Dillon. Sabatina’s father, 56th Ward leader John Sabatina Sr., backs Neilson. Their wards have the most divisions in the 5th District.
Again, this is Northeast Philly. There has to be more than one twist.
Donnelly is also brother-in-law to former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III, who went to California to try his hand at acting but then came home and expressed interest in the Senate seat, which he held for 14 years.
Everyone Clout talked to — Brady, Sabatina Sr., Donnelly, Dillon, and Neilson — said Stack is not in the running. Still, his name will be on Monday’s ballot.
While Dillon is running strong, Clout urges caution in counting out Neilson, who won three special elections in four years from 2012 to 2015 for state House and City Council seats.
State Rep. Mike Driscoll suggests he could be a “compromise candidate” for the Senate seat if Dillon and Neilson are deadlocked. But Clout hears Driscoll is more likely to be selected as a special election candidate for the vacancy when City Councilmember Bobby Henon resigns.
Henon is due to be sentenced in February for his federal bribery conviction in November with Electricians Union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.
Expect more vacancies. If Neilson and/or Driscoll take new jobs, their House seats will be up for grabs.
State Rep. Martina White, chair of the Republican City Committee, said her party is still interviewing candidates.
The Conor Lamb job that shall not be named
The conviction for Dougherty and Henon loomed when the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council gathered Wednesday to endorse U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.
Dougherty stepped down as leader of the 30-union Council after his conviction. His successor, Laborers District Council leader Ryan Boyer, introduced Lamb as a congressman and U.S. Marine veteran.
“You had another job, too,” Boyer said of Lamb. “I won’t mention that one.”
Lamb served as a federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh before winning a House seat. He told the union leaders he would use the prosecutorial experience to “crack down” on manufacturers in China and other countries who use “loopholes” to avoid complying with the Buy American Act.
Boyer, after the event, called the trial of Dougherty and Henon “a travesty.”
Henon, a former political director for Dougherty’s union, stayed on the payroll after joining City Council. A jury found the union paycheck, coupled with Dougherty’s frequent demands for Henon to act on his behalf as a councilmember, amounted to bribery.
“When the working class rises up, when we use the tools that businesses use, they criminalize it,” Boyer said.
Doug Mastriano’s big claim, absent evidence
He made a bold claim during an appearance Monday on the conservative John Fredericks Radio Show but then failed to follow up with any convincing evidence. Or any evidence at all. Clout spies a pattern.
“If the election was held today, we win,” Mastriano said on the show. “Every single poll since May has Mastriano ahead and I’m not even in the race yet. When we announce Saturday, I think it’s going to send a political explosion across Pennsylvania that the RINOs [Republicans in name only] and establishment have never seen.”
As Clout told you in October, Mastriano and his wife were telling supporters they were waiting on a financial sign from God before entering the race. Seems the check really was in the mail.
We asked Mastriano, who sprinkled his Monday appearance with still more debunked claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, to show us this polling that demonstrates his dominance. He did not respond.
Mastriano has previously complained that any poll that did not show him leading the pack was “rigged,” a popular phrase for those light on proof.