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Mike Stack is back and hankering for his old Northeast Philly seat in the Pa. Senate

Pennsylvania’s former lieutenant governor has been spending time in California, looking for a big break in acting or comedy. But now he’s back in Philly.

Former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, then acting as president of the Pennsylvania Senate, in January 2019.
Former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, then acting as president of the Pennsylvania Senate, in January 2019.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Last Clout heard about former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III, the Northeast Philly Democrat was trying to remake himself as an actor and comedian.

Stack appeared in an August airing of A Wealth of Entertainment TV’s real estate show, Find Me a Luxury Home, presenting himself as a lawyer from Philadelphia “reinventing” himself while shopping for a house in California’s Manhattan Beach with a $7 million budget.

But Clout hears Stack is more interested in his past these days: The 5th District seat in the state Senate he held for 14 years is likely to be vacant in January. Stack has been pitching himself as a nominee for the anticipated special election to fill that seat.

He’s got plenty of company.

The special election, if it happens, will come thanks to the political phenomenon known as judicial “magic seats,” which happen when incumbent judges up for a retention vote withdraw from the ballot.

Six judicial vacancies on the Nov. 2 general election ballot were filled last month by the Democratic City Committee, with one going to State Sen. John Sabatina Jr., who was elected to represent the 5th District after Stack became lieutenant governor in 2015. Sabatina is virtually assured election to a 10-year term on the bench.

But it could be the seat stays in the family: His father, John Sabatina Sr., an attorney and Democratic leader of the 56th Ward, told Clout he might want to be the special-election candidate. Interesting turn of events there, since the Sabatina and Stack political camps have long been allies in the fractious Democratic battles in Northeast Philly.

Two Democrats representing Northeast Philly state House districts, Ed Neilson and Mike Driscoll, are also interested. Sean Dillon, Democratic leader of Ward 66A, is in the mix, too.

Stack turned up at Neilson’s district office recently and at the party’s headquarters Wednesday for pizza night.

Everyone talking to Clout acknowledged that the results of the federal trial of John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty that started this week could shift the field. Dougherty, leader of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has long wielded union political power in Northeast Philly. His conviction could leave Local 98 allies scrambling for new support.

Stack did not respond to Clout’s hails this week. He was unseated by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the 2018 Democratic primary and then mulled a run for Philadelphia City Council before dropping that bid.

Since then, Stack launched a foray into the Los Angeles comedy scene — stage name Mikey Stacks — that turned more than a few heads back home last year. His stand-up routine included some unconventional wisdom for teenagers about isolation, opioid addiction, and suicide.

McSwain complains about Dougherty ‘running his mouth’

Bill McSwain is no longer U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, but the 2022 Republican contender for governor was tuned in this week as the biggest cases launched during his tenure finally headed to trial.

Calling in Tuesday to Talk Radio 1210-WPHT’s Dom Giordano Show, McSwain handicapped the bribery trial of Dougherty and City Councilmember Bobby Henon and complained about the swaggering confidence “Johnny Doc” projects in public.

“Johnny Doc is out there really running his mouth that he’s going to be found not guilty,” McSwain said. “He should be hunkering down and worrying about a defense instead of running his mouth to the media.”

It’s unusual for a former U.S. attorney to offer color commentary on active cases they once oversaw. Even more unusual, though, was how McSwain sized up this trial.

The case — which alleges Dougherty effectively bought Henon’s vote on Council with a union salary and other bribes — is “a tougher case for the government,” he said. Prosecutors must establish a clear quid pro quo between Dougherty and Henon.

McSwain said Dougherty’s next two trials — which involve allegations of union embezzlement and threats — are “a little more straightforward.”

“I can count on no fingers the number of times a defendant has been successful in three straight federal criminal trials,” he said. “The number is zero.”

McSwain touts the Dougherty case on the campaign trail to bolster a “tough-on-crime” image. But he recused himself from direct oversight of the investigation at one point due to a potential conflict of interest with his previous law firm.

Dougherty offered this when asked during a break in the trial Wednesday about McSwain’s radio hit: That guy, he said, “is a walking appeal.”

Peruto protests Krasner’s refusal to debate

The Ford F-250 hauling a Chuck Peruto campaign billboard on a trailer rolled past Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office across from City Hall 15 times Thursday afternoon. Peruto, in the passenger seat, used a sound system to urge voters to read his plans to fight crime.

“Ask Larry Krasner: Where’s his plan?” said Peruto, who supported Krasner four years ago but became a Republican to challenge him. “Why does he refuse to debate the issues? What is he hiding?”

Krasner last month snubbed Peruto’s request for a debate, calling the offer “a waste of time.”

Peruto, who also rolled through Center City and West Philly on Thursday, said he’ll be back on the road Friday, demanding a debate. A Krasner spokesperson declined to comment.

Staff writer Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this column.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.