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.
Reportedly, Fumo warned Dicker he'd be "very upset" if Mike O'Brien wins the 175th District seat. (Some political observers agree that Dicker and Graboyes could split the progressive vote, allowing O'Brien to win handily.)
"Fumo has a lot of audacity to tell me to drop out when he's the subject of an FBI investigation," Dicker says, adding that Dougherty also phoned with the reminder that "O'Brien is his guy."
Dicker finds it ironic that progressive candidates are willing to challenge incumbents in City Council, but no one wants to take on Harrisburg. "Philadelphia can't achieve reforms without a culture shift in the General Assembly," she says. "Locally, we want a more progressive tax structure, control of gun laws and campaign finance reforms-all of which depend on legislation in Harrisburg."
Pushing through reforms in the state House will be an uphill battle, should Dicker win on Tuesday. Even with 27 open seats, voters are unlikely to see major differences in Harrisburg. "Freshman members don't represent a change in leadership," says political pollster Terry Madonna.
A couple weeks ago O'Brien's campaign mailed out fliers that assert, "It's not about going to Harrisburg. It's about what you can do once you're there."
In a few days voters in the 175th District will line up at the polls. Whom they ultimately elect will say a lot about broader trends in citywide politics, which many believe are in flux.
Voters will find out how well money and party endorsements fare when up against committed volunteers and a rage-against-the-machine attitude. They'll learn whether the blog generation is truly poised to replace politicians who prefer cutting deals at the Palm.
Neighborhood Networks is convinced that Dicker has laid the necessary groundwork to declare victory in Tuesday's primary. "She's been the most outspoken candidate on waterfront issues, and she's proven herself a leader in grassroots activism."
Ray Murphy, another Dicker supporter, says all the hype about the influence carried by Dougherty and Fumo is mere nostalgia for "their glory days." Alliances are irrelevant today, he says. "Even if Anne doesn't win next week, a new Philadelphia is coming to a head."
Even Larry Ceisler, who works as a consultant to Dougherty, acknowledges that support from the political machine could be a liability in this race.
Younger voters in particular may "resent" the fact that the City Committee is backing O'Brien, and that Fumo is aligned with Graboyes, he says. "If Anne is able to excite people and get them to the polls to vote in an off-year election ... well, all bets are off."
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