A lawsuit filed last month sought to overturn what it called a “sham ward leader election” in Northeast Philly’s Ward 66B. Now there’s been an anonymous airing of grievances that has the Democratic City Committee chattering.
Woven into verses of invective in the anonymous letter, mailed recently to the homes of Democratic ward leaders across the city, are various abuses and aspersions aimed at labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and two ward leaders, Shawn Dillon and Brian Eddis.
Dougherty’s lawyer, Joseph Podraza Jr., sent Clout his own letter last week, warning of “grave consequences” if we reported on “an irresponsible document.” At least Podraza signed his missive.
Dillon, the Democratic leader of Ward 66A, said he is a friend of Janice Tangradi, the committeewoman seeking to overturn the election in January of John Del Ricci as leader of Ward 66B. Why anyone would want so badly to control 66B is not clear, but ward leaders do enjoy some influence in city politics.
Eddis heads the nearby 63rd Ward and is an official in Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which Dougherty has led since 1993.
The letter sender used the home of City Councilman Bobby Henon, leader of the 65th Ward, as a return address on the envelopes. Clout is reliably informed the sender had impeccable penmanship.
Podraza knocked the letter as “a smear document of unknown origin” that “makes irresponsible and false representations.”
Bob Brady, leader of the city’s Democratic Party, said he heard about the letter before his even arrived in the mail.
“I’m sure a lot of people are upset about it,” said Brady, who found it all “pretty humorous.” Brady also said he thinks the letter was prompted by Clout’s reporting on the lawsuit.
Dillon called the effort “pathetic” and knocked the sender as a coward.
“With this being said, the one thing I know for sure is that whoever mailed it had access to the City Committee mailing list, so you can take that for what it’s worth,” Dillon wrote in an email.
Del Ricci said he is getting blamed but didn’t send the letter and does not respect whoever did.
He announced a memorial service in January for Michael “Mac” McAleer Jr., the longtime 66B leader, who died in December. That became a "snap” election.
The Pennsylvania Republican Party’s summer meeting, set for late May, has been postponed and may be held a month later. That will stretch out what could be a bruising battle for a seat on the Republican National Committee, just as the party is trying to come together to help President Donald Trump win the state again.
Asher declares himself as “myopically focused on the reelection of President Trump, Congress, the state Senate and the state House. I will become involved in nothing, or have any comment, that will prove disruptive to that course of action."
Reilly, a Center City lawyer and secretary of the state party, said he is strongly considering a bid.
“The next four years will be critically important to the Republican Party,” he said. “I’m being encouraged to run by many state committee people from across the state.”
A Pennsylvania Republican political consultant, who asked not to be identified in order to speak freely, said state party Chairman Lawrence Tabas of Philadelphia is leaning Reilly’s way. Reilly said he has “a good working relationship” with Tabas.
Tabas didn’t answer directly when asked about Reilly, sending a statement that called interest in the RNC seat a sign of party strength.
“I think that’s great, and I don’t think it would affect the November election because everyone is 100% behind the president,” Tabas said. “This is more about the four years that follow.”
A wild card in this: the party’s 2018 gubernatorial nominee, Scott Wagner of York County.
Wagner, who could not stop Gov. Tom Wolf’s bid for a second term, holds a serious grudge against Asher, who did not support him in the 2018 primary.
Reilly said Wagner told him in November he was running for the seat but might stay out of the contest if Reilly became a candidate.
A working theory here: Wagner could be the “hammer” on behalf of Reilly. Wagner didn’t respond to Clout’s hails.
The other RNC seat has been held since 1997 by Christine Toretti, former owner of a Western Pennsylvania drilling firm, who is seeking another four-year term.
“He’s incredibly loyal and passionate about the Republican Party,” she said. “He’s been a great person to work with.”