What? You thought Philadelphia would experience an entire election cycle without hearing from T. Milton Street Sr.?
The state senator turned federal inmate turned perennial candidate is back. And he’s running for mayor. Again.
Street will announce his candidacy as an independent Saturday, with a focus on gun violence and the city’s homicide rate.
His Facebook announcement includes a picture of him with his hand on a coffin, evocative of a City Hall campaign rally he held in 2007 to decry violence, while singing a gospel hymn. It remains one of the strangest events in Philadelphia political history. Obviously, that’s saying something.
Street’s new independence might be a little awkward. He is still the Republican leader of the 14th Ward, even though he switched his voter registration on April 2. He says the ward position doesn’t take up much time.
“There are no Republicans there,” he said. “Maybe three or four.”
We checked. There are 307 Republicans in the 14th Ward, which means the party represents about 5 percent of the registered voters there.
Republicans seem — let’s go with unfazed — by Street. Billy Ciancaglini, the lone Republican running for mayor, said he would sign Street’s nomination petition if asked. Michael Meehan, chairman of the Republican City Committee, shrugged it off, too.
“I think he’ll be the first of a couple of people who file to run as independents,” Meehan said.
Street’s party-jumping record stretches back four decades. He won a state House seat in 1978 as a Democrat, served one term, won a state Senate seat in 1980, jumped to the Republican Party, and was ousted from office after one term. He has spent 35 years since trying to win elected office.
As a Republican, Street won just 4.68 percent of the vote last year in a bid for his old state House seat. He won even less, just 1.68 percent, as one of six Democrats in the 2015 primary won by Mayor Jim Kenney.
He’s not the only one spoiling for a 2015 rematch. State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams is challenging Kenney in Tuesday’s primary. Williams is endorsed by Street’s brother, former Mayor John Street.
Street’s biggest vote tally — 24 percent — came in the Democratic primary for mayor in 2011, but was attributed to a protest vote against former Mayor Michael Nutter, because Street was still on supervised release after serving 26 months in federal prison for evading taxes on $3 million in income.
Though no longer a Republican, Street has a prediction about his former party.
“No Republican is going to win in Philadelphia until black people start voting Republican,” he said. “They can’t win. Blacks vote straight Democrat.”
Henon checks his numbers
No Democrat filed to challenge City Councilman Bobby Henon in Tuesday’s primary for the 6th District, even though he was indicted on Jan. 30 along with John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, leader of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and six other union officials, all accused of embezzling more than $600,000. (All have pleaded not guilty.)
Still, Henon took the temperature of voters in his district, paying Thirty Ninth Street Strategies, a polling firm, $16,000 last month. The firm also counts Local 98 as a client.
Henon said he decided to poll when it looked like he might have a pair of primary challengers. Did the poll ask voters how they feel about the indictment?
“My community stands by my record,” Henon said. Twice.
Even with Henon’s legal troubles, defeating him won’t be easy. Sixty-five percent of the voters in the district are Democrats, while 23 percent are Republicans and 12 percent are independents or members of smaller political parties.
Sherrie Cohen drops back in
Sherrie Cohen’s third try for City Council at-large has been ... eventful. She entered the race as a Democrat and parted ways in March with her campaign manager, who drew attention for heckling the first transgender woman to run for Council at a trans-pride flag raising at City Hall. Then Cohen dropped out of the race on April 18.
Cohen also left the Democratic Party that day. And, as of this week, she’s running for Council as an independent. In a Facebook post, she asks supporters to collect signatures on nomination petitions from voters at the polls for Tuesday’s primary.
Cohen has until Aug. 1 to submit at least 3,226 signatures to qualify for the ballot. That’s not the only challenge ahead. The state Election Code says independents must submit an affidavit “that his name has not been presented as a candidate by nomination petitions for any public office to be voted for at the ensuing primary election, nor has he been nominated by any other nomination papers filed for any such office.”
Cohen, an attorney, said she has case law that says her “voluntary withdrawal from the primary election" establishes her right to run as an independent. We’re expecting several independents to run for Council this year. One of them may ask a judge to take a look at that.
Clout pre-primary photo bonus!
Can you spot the problems with these signs for Irina Goldstein, a Democrat-turned-Republican candidate for City Council at-large, and Jacque Whaumbush, a Democrat running for Register of Wills?
Staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed to this column.