A powerhouse group of African American politicos known as the Northwest Coalition may not come to a unanimous endorsement in the Philadelphia district attorney's race, further splintering support in the heated competition between seven Democratic candidates.
“It’s just crazy – everybody is all over the place,” said former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco. “I think we have good candidates. But one ward likes this one, people in my ward like [another] candidate. We try to come to a consensus.”
Tasco, who retired last year, remains at the helm of the 50th Ward in the Stenton neighborhood. She and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans are often considered the gatekeepers of the Northwest Coalition, a legion of African American electeds and ward leaders who have a reputation for delivering votes in their districts – including big boosts to non-black candidates like Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf.
The group was slated to make an announcement by Friday. If a consensus can’t be reached, Tasco said, ward leaders would be left to endorse their own candidates.
The seven-term councilwoman demurred about exactly which way the vote was leaning, saying only that “two or three candidates stand out” and that “a couple of them like [Larry] Krasner.”
One thing is clear: the coalition has done its due diligence. Since February, Tasco said the group has met with all seven Democratic hopefuls individually on three separate occasions for presentations and Q&A sessions.
“We try to give people a fair shake,” Tasco said. “We try to let people know we listen to them… we have some qualified people.”
Currying favor with ward leaders has become crucial ever since the Democratic City Committee decided not to endorse a candidate in the high-profile race last month. Former First Deputy District Attorney Tariq El-Shabazz has been seen networking with black ward leaders in all corners of the city. His spokesperson did not return requests for comment, but sources close to the campaign say that El-Shabazz has won the support of influential megachurch pastor Alyn Waller, who has deep ties to the Northwest Coalition and even married Tasco protege and successor Councilwoman Cherelle Parker.
Attorney and real estate broker Michael Untermeyer has secured the support of several Northeast wards, including that of John Sabatina, Sr. in the 56th ward, Sabatina told a reporter.
Joe Khan has secured support from the 41st and 45th wards, a campaign spokesman said, along with getting the nod from the likes of former Gov. Ed Rendell and State Rep. Mike O'Brien. Krasner’s campaign would not divulge any commitments made by wards, although his campaign continues to rake in progressive endorsements on the local and national level.
Information requests for the other Democratic candidates, Rich Negrin, Jack O'Neill and Teresa Carr Deni, were not returned by press time.
Although many observers were expecting the endorsement (or lack thereof) by Friday, Tasco said it might not be clear until the end of the weekend. Obviously, a joint endorsement would carry a lot more weight in a race that, with just three weeks until election day, has no clear frontrunner.
In the event of a split vote, Tasco said, her ward will still endorse a candidate based on consensus among the committee people. “Once I decide who to do in the 50th [ward], we’ll do that ticket all day,” she said.
Updated April 25, 7:00 a.m.