The Election’s Biggest Winners & Losers


Helen Gym, Marian Tasco, Jim Kenney, John Dougherty and Dwight Evans were among the big winners Tuesday.

Tuesday’s election was a weird mix of pre-ordained results, huge upsets and one photo-finish.

It was, in the main, a very good night for Democrats. And Philadelphia being a Democratic town, the list of winners in this election is a lot longer than the losers.

The Winners

1. Big city liberals

Pennsylvanians put two Allegheny County residents and one Philadelphian on the state’s highest court yesterday. Jim Kenney, a rowhouse champion with big labor backing, swept to an easy victory. Cities turned up big yesterday in Pennsylvania.

2. John Dougherty

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Johnny Doc had a really good election day. His brother, Kevin M. Dougherty, won a seat on the state Supreme Court. Kevin Dougherty was the top vote-winning Supreme Court candidate statewide. His victory speaks well of him, of course: Kevin Dougherty is a well regarded Common Pleas Court judge. But it also says plenty about Johnny Doc’s statewide juice. This was the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history, and Doc just crushed it. Read more »

Jim Kenney Elected Mayor — Now What?

Outgoing Philadelphia Michael Nutter, top, greets and former City Councilman Jim Kenney, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at the Relish restaurant in Philadelphia.

Outgoing Philadelphia Michael Nutter greets Jim Kenney, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at Relish.

(Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Check back for updates.)

Jim Kenney — the firefighter’s son, former Vince Fumo-protege and the surprising champion of an emerging progressive political coalition — was elected Philadelphia’s 99th mayor today.

In Kenney, the city has chosen a passionate, intelligent and empathic man who oozes affection for Philadelphia and its people. At his best, Kenney fuses the innovation and restlessness of new Philadelphia with the strength, resilience and character of old Philadelphia.

But Philadelphians are also getting a mayor who was never really tested in his audition for the grueling job ahead. His primary opponents were a feckless bunch, and all Kenney had to do to win was avoid big mistakes. Kenney has yet to articulate a clear vision for his administration — he didn’t have to to win.

Kenney’s latest contest with Melissa Murray Bailey shed even less light on Kenney’s plans. Bailey was a virtual unknown, and Democrats outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia by about 7-1. The predictable result was a Kenney romp. Bailey claimed just over 13 percent of the vote, with nearly 98 percent of precincts reporting. That’s a paltry total even by the standards of Philadelphia GOP mayoral nominees not-named-Sam-Katz.

Read more »

Can Dwight Evans Beat Chaka Fattah?


It’s official. Dwight Evans, the reborn political king of Northwest Philly, will face off against Chaka Fattah, the trailblazing 20-year Congressman who is now serving under the dark cloud of a federal indictment.

This should be a hell of a contest. It’s a matchup of two titans. Both are bruised and battered, both remain far more powerful than their detractors would like, and both — despite the advanced stage of their respective careers — once more have a lot to prove. Read more »

6 Reasons Why Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial

Pennsylvania voters get a blessed opportunity to start cleaning up the state’s train wreck of a Supreme Court on Tuesday, when they’ll fill three of seven seats on the high court. This is a huge election, one that could have far-reaching consequences for everything from school funding, to gun control to the political balance of power in Harrisburg.

Theoretically, judges are not partisan actors. But in the real world, a judge’s party affiliation often telegraphs how they’ll rule on a wide array of politically-charged issues. That’s even more true in a state, like Pennsylvania, that elects its judges.

Right now, the court is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, with two empty seats. One of the sitting Republicans leaves the bench in January. It’s not an exaggeration to say the political balance of the court could be decided for a decade or more, depending on who turns out Tuesday. Justices are elected to 10-year terms, and re-election is easy. The judges chosen for the high court Tuesday will likely be with us for a very long time. Read more »

A Bad Night for Dennis O’Brien at No-Holds Barred Debate

So that’s why incumbents and heavy favorites prefer debates with lots of rules and regulations.

Tuesday evening, the Philadelphia Citizen and the Committee of 70 hosted an unorthodox debate featuring (some) of the candidates seeking two City Council at-large seats reserved for the non-majority party.

The rules were there were no rules. No moderator. No time limits on speaking. The candidates were free to ask whatever question they might desire of their opponents.

The results were … entertaining. Illuminating? Less so.

But it was a fascinating experiment. It was also a really bad night for GOP Councilman Dennis O’Brien. The two-term incumbent was heckled by the crowd and roughed up by three lesser-known opponents excited at their chance to punch up.

O’Brien did not handle it well. He ditched the stage at one point to lodge grievances over his maltreatment with debate organizers, then returned to the debate stage, then left again, citing other engagements. Read more »

Bad News in the Blight Wars: Judge Rules Against City’s Most Effective Anti-Blight Program

A blighted, vacant home lacking doors and windows on an otherwise healthy block in West Philadelphia. | Image: Google Streetview.

A blighted, vacant home lacking doors and windows on an otherwise healthy block in West Philadelphia. | Image: Google Streetview.

Philadelphia has a novel and seemingly highly effective anti-blight law on the books known as the Doors & Windows ordinance.

The law empowers the City to order owners of vacant property on otherwise healthy blocks to put real, functional doors and real, functional windows on their buildings, instead of the plywood “doors” or sheet-metal “windows” so often used to seal up vacant structures.

The financial penalties for flouting the ordinance are extreme: $300 per opening, per day.

Although disliked by some owners of vacant buildings for obvious reasons, the ordinance is a simple, elegant, cost-effective way for the City to slow or halt the blighting influence of empty buildings in still-healthy neighborhoods.

But as PlanPhilly reports, a Common Pleas Court judge last month wrote an opinion that calls the legality of the ordinance into question. Judge Linda Carpenter wrote that the ordinance “appears to be concerned more with aesthetics and the appearance of occupancy rather than blight, safety and security.” Read more »

How Safe Are Tasers?


Around 2 a.m. on Monday morning, at Huntingdon Station on the Market-Frankford line, an as yet unidentified man and a SEPTA police officer got into a protracted physical struggle. The officer used his Taser to subdue the man.

The officer radioed for backup, but did not provide his exact location. It took at least eight minutes for help to arrive. When it did, the man was still conscious, but on the ride to Aria Hospital, the man became non-responsive. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

No gun was fired, but the encounter was no less lethal for that. So, just how safe are Tasers?

It’s complicated. Read more »

Mayor Nutter Says It’s Time to Disband the School Reform Commission

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter walks down a blocked off Market Street, with City Hall in the background, in Philadelphia on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, before Pope Francis' trip. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated.)

In a major education policy address, Mayor Nutter called today for the dissolution of the School Reform Commission, the state-created board that has overseen the School District of Philadelphia for the last 15 years.

“In my opinion and based on my experience – it is time to end the SRC.,” Nutter said. “It’s time for it to go.”

He called for a transition to a local school board comprised of nine members, five directly appointed by the mayor, four picked by the mayor from a list of 12 nominees prepared by City Council. And he proposed making the shift by September, 2017.

Why? Nutter cited two reasons. City control of its own schools will, he believes, increase community commitment to the district. Second, “Local control also eliminates confusion over who is responsible for what,” Nutter said. “Over the last 8 years, we’ve seen a revolving door of leadership everywhere but our local government – three governors, five Secretaries of Education, five School District Superintendents, six SRC Chairs and 17 SRC members.”

“Returning to local control means the voters of this city know who to hold accountable for educational outcomes – the Mayor.” Read more »

The Challengers: Indy Andrew Stober Isn’t Raging Against the Machine, He’s End-Running It

Andrew Stober announcing his candidacy in June. | Photo credit: screenshot of Stober announcement video.

Andrew Stober announcing his candidacy in June. | Photo credit: screenshot of Stober announcement video.

This week, Citified is featuring Q&As with leading at-large City Council candidates running for the two slots reserved for minority parties and independents.

Andrew Stober is an unusual City Council candidate in a number of ways, starting with the fact that nobody really knows if he has chance of winning in next week’s election.

There’s never been a candidate like Stober in the city’s recent history. He’s an independent, which argues for writing off his chances as improbable at best. But he’s also well-funded, endorsed by the likes of Mayor Michael Nutter, former Gov. Ed Rendell, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Fraternal Order of Police. Which obviously argues for taking him very seriously indeed.

Stober, 36, also has an atypical resume for Council. He was, until the campaign, a senior manager in the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. His marquee accomplishment there was getting the city’s Indego bike system up and running.

Now he’s looking to prove that Republicans don’t have a stranglehold on the two City Council at-large seats the City Charter reserves for candidates who aren’t a part of the majority party (which has been the Dems, these last 60 years).

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Read more »

You Don’t Drive? Doesn’t Matter: You’ll Still Pay at Least $1,100 a Year So Others Can

Owning a car is expensive. Turns out, not owning a car is expensive as well.

The average U.S. household subsidizes car ownership to the tune of $1,105-$1,848 a year, according to a detailed, deeply researched report released this spring by U.S. PIRG, a left-leaning non-profit advocacy group. (The PIRG report was highlighted again yesterday, by the Atlantic.)

That cost is borne by all households; including those that do not own a car of their own.

For some of our more car-averse readers, this might seem obvious. But the myth that car owners pay their own way in the form of gasoline taxes and other fees remains widespread.

They don’t. At all. Read more »

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