Reform candidate Anne Dicker, who wants to represent the river wards in Harrisburg, may not win Tuesday's primary, but the progressive movement she represents is clearly gaining momentum.
Another reform-minded organization, Neighborhood Networks, retracted its endorsement of Graboyes after steering committee members apparently miscalculated the votes. "It was our first attempt at endorsements," explains Marc Stier, who co-founded the group nine months earlier. "It had been a very long night, and we were exhausted."
But some observers suspect Neighbor-hood Networks withdrew the endorsement because of harsh criticism. In one widely circulated letter to the organization, Bella Vista activist Vern Anastasio characterized the endorsement as a "very sad turn of events."
"You have shown me, by not endorsing progressive Anne Dicker, that scoring points in petty, polluted politics is far more important to Neighborhood Networks than improving the lives of the people of Philadelphia," wrote Anastasio.
|O'Brien: For smart development along the riverfront.|
During the 1956 presidential election season, when O'Brien was a precocious 2-year-old, his dad trained him to approach little old ladies and exclaim, "My name's Mike and I like Ike." Sixteen years later O'Brien's father warned him to not bother returning home from the voter registration office with the word "Democrat" on his new card.
But like a lot of boomers affected by Vietnam and Watergate, O'Brien developed a left-leaning political philosophy. In 1994 he signed on as Rep. Lederer's chief of staff.
O'Brien speaks diplomatically of Lederer, his longtime boss, but stresses that they disagreed over the years. He's vague about his reasons for resigning in 2004. "I wanted to do some stuff in the private sector," he says. Lederer, who didn't return requests for comment, is publicly supporting O'Brien's bid to succeed her.
For the last two years, O'Brien says, he's "cobbled together a living." His recent gigs include working as a consultant for Gessler Appraisal, a firm that assesses real estate values for, among others, the Redevelopment Authority (RDA). O'Brien and several investment partners have purchased a number of vacant lots and empty buildings.
"Just small stuff," he says. In July the partners bought the former 26th Police District building for $275,000. They turned around and listed the building, near Dauphin and York streets, for $1.2 million.
O'Brien has placed his properties in a blind trust.
"My investment partners will make all decisions without consulting me," he says. "I'll simply open my mail one day to find either a check or a bill."
Though Dougherty has O'Brien's back in this race, the candidate insists he'd run without support from the electricians union. "Although I'd have to work a lot harder to raise money," he concedes. Local 98 also provides street workers on Election Day-troops known to tip a close race by rallying folks to the polls.
O'Brien disagrees with Rendell's call for a moratorium on development. He fears that if interest rates shoot up, planned retail and residential projects could die. He also questions the governor's motives: "Where was this concern for strategic planning in 1990 when Rendell first proposed riverboat gambling?"
In the northern sections of the 175th District, O'Brien is a rock star. At an April 19 meeting in Kensington, supporters pumped his hand and thanked him for helping them over the years. Noting how many of his campaign posters adorn windows in Queen Village as well, O'Brien asserts, "Word on the street is that I'm the frontrunner."
|Graboyes: For small-business bennies from casino construction.|
"One-on-one, Mike couldn't beat me," she asserts. "But with Anne in the race, it's anyone's seat.
Graboyes presents herself as a progressive candidate. Yet she's quick to rattle off names of party bigwigs who support her bid for office-Rendell, Mayor Street, Lynne Abraham, city controller Alan Butkovitz and Council members Michael Nutter, Frank DiCicco, Juan Ramos and Marian Tasco. During an endorsement meeting last month, she reportedly waved her cell phone in the air and boasted that state Rep. Dwight Evans' phone number was programmed into it.
Graboyes comes across as down to earth and personable. She raised her 22-year-old son on her own and is involved in the community theater scene. She smashed through the mythical glass ceiling and built a successful business in the male-dominated construction industry.
PW's Summer Guide 2015