Occupy the polls this Nov. 8!
District 10: Fox Chase, Bustleton, Parkwood
In addition to casting a sinister eye toward Center City and putting up strip malls, Northeast Philly’s most northeast corner has this going for it: It houses the city’s only district Republican. He’s 62-year-old Brian O’Neill, Council’s minority leader, and he’s been in office since 1980. O’Neill was all set to cruise to re-election this year, but then Council threw the highly Democratic 56th ward into O’Neill’s district, you know, just to fuck with him. Which means O’Neill’s career is on the line for the first time ever.
Brian O’Neill (R): The 61-year-old councilman’s newfound desperation can be found exclusively on his website. There, it’s claimed, “Brian O’Neill cares about you” and “shares your values.” And for most Northeasterners, that’s probably true. Like them, he’s a lone Republican in this godforsaken city, pissed things just haven’t gone his way for so long, and aren’t likely to. Decrying Nutter’s rolling brownouts of city fire stations, O’Neill calls himself a big supporter of putting more police, firefighters and paramedics on our streets. He can’t stand the Rizzo remnants of the Philly Republican Party (Rizzo never liked him either; he called O’Neill “the most petty guy I ever met” when he was pushed out of Republican leadership this fall.) And although O’Neill initially filled out an application, he’s never joined DROP, and promised he never will.
Bill Rubin (D): Rubin’s already come out with a false campaign commercial accusing O’Neill of wanting to collect a DROP payment. And when asked if that’s misleading (since it is), he said no. Stay the course! Rubin, 43, is a former supervisor of elections and worked under Marge Tartaglione (whom we’ll always remember for threatening to punch a PW reporter in the face) at the Philadelphia City Commissioners’ Office. He’s also served as VP of the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement. During their only dsebate, Rubin chastised the Republican for using a city car (which O’Neill said he’d get rid of if he had to) and being around people who are enrolled in DROP. They’re bad influences on you!
Denny O’Brien: State representative from the Northeast since 1976 (except for a 2-year period in the early ’80s when he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives) and former state House Speaker, 58-year-old Denny O’Brien is looking to move from Harrisburg to Philly to tackle issues of prison reform and education for children with disabilities, particularly autism. Despite zero backing from the city GOP, O’Brien made it through the primary largely on voter anger over DROP. In fact, he voted for legislation to abolish it. He’s also recently worked to keep a controversial proposed methadone clinic out of the Northeast. Known for his bipartisanship efforts in the House, he’s gotten endorsements from a handful of key local Democrats for this race, including both Kevin and Brendan Boyle, state reps in Northeast Philly.
Al Taubenberger: It’s probably a bad sign when you pay for the very voter poll whose results show you hate actual neighborhoods, and the people who live in them, and love businesses. Such is the situation with Al Taubenberger, the 2007 Republican mayoral candidate and president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce whose campaign slogan, according to his website, is “Al Means Business....” Naturally, economic issues are at the top of the 57-year-old’s campaign agenda: He wants to slash the city wage tax, make Philly more business-friendly, and bring back those jobs, baby. In fact, his other campaign slogan appears to be “More Jobs. Fewer Problems,” which you’d think most people could get with.
Michael Untermeyer: Local attorney Michael Untermeyer, 60, has a license to fly commercial jets, apparently, so he wants to pilot the city through this economic crisis by reducing business taxes, putting a freeze on property tax hikes, rooting out and terminating wasteful spending and corruption, and putting a stake through the heart of DROP. As an assistant district attorney here, Untermeyer focused on taking down drug traffickers and money launderers, and he plans to wield as big a stick against crime as he will against bloated budgets. Two years ago, he was soundly defeated for D.A. by Seth Williams, but a Council seat might make for a nice consolation prize.
Joe McColgan: Are you scared of Joe McColgan? You should be. Especially if you’re a Democrat. Because not only can the 48-year-old McColgan still kick your ass, he blames you for everything wrong with Philadelphia. “Democrats have been in charge for the last 50 years,” he often says on the campaign trail. “So, you can’t blame anything on Republicans.” And, “There are half as many people in Philadelphia today as there were in 1950, and twice as many city employees.” Oh, Joe, if only it were so simple. For his part, McColgan has promised not to accept a city pension, wants to instate term limits and won’t use a city car. He’s ready to be a City Council Republican punching bag, so long as he can at least attempt to curb the city’s spending, and maybe even cut government while he’s at it.
David Oh: There was a time when local lawyer and Republican David Oh was a shoe-in for one of the two minority Council at-Large seats. Jack Kelly, to whom Oh barely lost in 2007, had announced his retirement, and 50-year-old Oh had the backing of both the city GOP and its Loyal Opposition rivals. His platform of making Philadelphia a more electronics-focused city, and, therefore, an “international city,” has gained the attention of Republicans and Democrats alike. At debates, Oh’s often got the numbers to back up his tax-cutting proposals and tops it off with a general personal likeability. Hell, he’s even a former Green Beret! What’s that? He’s not a Green Beret? Oh, shit. Correction: David Oh’s been lying about being a Green Beret for more than a decade, and now there are a bunch of veterans, Facebook dwellers and heads of neighborhood associations who are pissed off. Since Oh’s Big Lie was exposed in August, he’s lost his FOP endorsement, had an embarrassing article published about him at Military.com and unsuccessfully, embarrassingly tried to defend himself on a national military message board. He issued apologies and then asked the Daily News to apologize to him for reporting on his background, which they did not. A betting man would still call him the favorite, but his general clout has been considerably reduced. For what it’s worth, the main group expressing outrage about Oh, the “Philadelphia Independent Veterans Association,” didn’t exist before they took on this issue.
The Sheriff’s Office is a funny thing. It’s one of the city’s infamous “row offices” that no one really likes. But worse. See, it sort of lost $53 million over the past few years (note: Acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley recently “found” $40 million of that), and now-former Sheriff John Green was a DROP enrollee. He quit last winter to collect his $331,744 sum and now gets a more than $8,000-a-month pension, leaving Deeley in charge. With that in mind, a movement began last summer to eliminate the office. Started by both then-candidate John Kromer and the Committee of Seventy, it was followed through by Councilmen Bill Green and Frank DiCicco, who introduced a bill that would killed the position.
But there was a problem. State Rep. Jewell Williams was set to run for the office and the attitude at the top was that the office is rightfully his. Then, at Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.’s birthday party in July 2010, Williams and Green had words. Soon after, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams publicly called Green a racist for wanting to eliminate the office (and, ahem, backing Dan Onorato for governor). So, Green backed off the idea pretty quickly, saying, “I don’t think this bill is going anywhere.”
And it didn’t!
Let’s see: The three-person, bipartisan board—which oversees Philadelphia elections and voter registration—mandates that a political party can hold no more than two of the seats. So it appears that the only two Democrats in the running—newcomer Stephanie Singer (a Yale-educated college math professor, right) and incumbent Anthony Clark (who hasn’t really even campigned) —are shoe-ins.
That means bitter Republican rivals Al Schmidt (left) and Joe Duda will face off in a steel cage match, so to speak, for not only the final seat but, both practically and symbolically, the soul of Philly’s beleaguered GOP.
Schmidt is the sharp, reform-minded, up-and-comer who used to work for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He ran for city controller in 2009, says he’ll make the office more transparent by publishing real-time intimidation, electioneering and other voting irregularities on Election Day, as well as re-train and up the pay for poll workers (while docking his own yearly pay 10 percent). He’s been crusading against inefficiency and corruption and would like it if commissioners did not have the use of a city car.
Duda is the dinosaur incumbent who’s held his seat for 15 years and who’s really, really tried (some say not hard enough) to bring the city’s voting machines and other election technology into the modern age. His main campaign claim is that the office “does a good job” and he’s done what he could to register Republican voters in our Democrat-happy metropolis. He’s also the guy who used more taxpayer-funded gasoline for his city car last year than almost any other city official, which he says is really no big deal.
Winning this race could be a real stepping stone for Schmidt and help redefine Republican power in Philadelphia. The thing about dinosaurs, though—at least from what we learned via our public school education, and from Jurassic Park—is that they don’t go down without a fight, so this battle promises to be a close one worth watching.