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.
She insists she's "not close" to Fumo. "But I welcome his support," she adds.
Graboyes seems to barely distinguish between her role as president of a commercial window company-which did about $13 million in annual sales last year-and her candidacy. Her business office on North Seventh Street doubles as her campaign headquarters.
The window company's chief financial officer is the campaign's treasurer.
Most troubling to reform-minded voters is Graboyes' intent to remain "the deal opener and the deal closer" for the window company. "I'll make decisions about the jobs we bid and our prices," she says.
If she's elected, Graboyes sees no reason to forgo bidding on projects in the 175th District unless community members oppose them. "I don't think there could be a perceived conflict of interest," she says.
In the past Graboyes has installed windows for public agencies like the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the School District. And critics charge that Graboyes is willing to ignore her liberal political convictions for profits.
In recent years she's donated more than $3,000 to right-wing House majority leader John Perzel, and forked over $1,500 to Republican Party campaign committees. Regardless, Graboyes has consistently espoused progressive ideals during the campaign, from protecting abortion rights to raising the minimum wage.
And if casinos are destined for the river wards, Graboyes says, Philadelphia must ensure that local businesses benefit. "Casinos are a mixed blessing."
Anne Dicker, meanwhile, characterizes the prospect of gaming in the 175th District as a curse. She's calling on the gaming control board to extend the licensing period so communities learn more about potential negative impacts.
She claims the board has failed to explain why it sanctioned proposals near densely populated residential areas. "These neighborhoods are about to be inundated," she says. "Two casinos are too many."
Like her opponents, Dicker says a master plan for riverfront development is needed before skyscrapers and strip malls steal the unique character of the neighborhoods.
Most significant, Dicker says she's outraged by corrupt machine politics. She grew up in a conservative middle-class home in rural northeastern Ohio. Her dad ran small retail stores; her mom taught in Toledo public schools. Then, after 25 years of marriage and five children, her mother became a nun.
"My dad is a neocon and my mom is a theo-con," Dicker jokes.
She moved to the Philadelphia area in 1998 to work as an analyst for Spencer Gifts, a national chain with more than 600 mall locations. She says she loved the day-to-day challenges of corporate life, and especially the generous salary. But she decided to give up both to dedicate herself to the grassroots reform movement.
Dicker's opposition to the Iraq war compelled her to campaign for presidential candidate Howard Dean in 2003. "We organized 4,000 antiwar protesters to rally in front of the Constitution Center," she recalls. "We wrote 10,000 letters to voters and to Congress, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at house parties."
After Dean bailed out of the race, Philly for Dean morphed into Philly for Change. Members, led by Dicker, successfully campaigned to reverse the controversial legislative pay raise in Harrisburg and to fight President Bush's Social Security privatization plan.
What's more, members began recruiting independent Democrats to run for elected office. "We found that people who aren't connected to the old-time machine or to corruption are willing to run," she says.
When Lederer announced her retirement, Dicker spent only 24 hours mulling over whether to run for the seat. Shortly after tossing her hat in the ring, Dicker says Fumo summoned her to his district office at 12th and Tasker streets.
Dicker and supporter Ray Murphy tromped downstairs and through a hallway lined with the senator's Mensa certificate and newspaper stories. At the end of the tiled corridor they found Fumo and veteran political consultant Howard Cain-both dressed in sportcoats, jeans and loafers.
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