To Resist Trump, Fix Philly’s Elite, Boring, Anti-Competitive Democratic Party

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah.

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah. Photos Jeff Fusco, Pa. House, Matt Rourke via AP

Philadelphia’s Democratic Party suffers from the same cancer as the national Democratic Party. Only it’s arguably much more advanced.

Think the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders behind closed doors? In Philadelphia, the Democratic City Committee paves the way for its preferred candidates out in the open, without any shame: Before the mayoral primary even started, Philly Democratic Party boss Bob Brady publicly threw his weight behind state Sen. Tony Williams. The party puts its thumb on the scales in Democratic primaries for the judiciary, City Council and General Assembly, too, and its endorsements matter even more in these races because so few people pay close attention to them.

Think the national Democratic Party turns a blind eye to corruption? Earlier this year, the Democratic City Committee endorsed Chaka Fattah for Congress after he was charged with using taxpayer dollars and charitable donations to pay back an illegal loan. How could the party do this, as its schools were starving and its constituents were sinking deeper and deeper into poverty? Oh, but it gets worse: This month, Philly Democratic state Rep. Leslie Acosta was reelected after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering at a mental health clinic in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Imagine how selfish you have to be to run for office after admitting to bilking the most vulnerable among us — and imagine how little she’ll be able to get done for her constituents, many of whom are Latinos and immigrants, now that she’s the laughingstock of Harrisburg. The list goes on and on. Over the summer, the FBI raided the offices of Democratic Councilman Bobby Henon and subpoenaed Mayor Jim Kenney’s campaign finance records. The feds are also reportedly investigating Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams.

Think the national Democrats are boring and not liberal enough? Let me introduce you to Katie McGinty, the uncharismatic Senate candidate who lost to Pat Toomey in an election that Democrats desperately needed to win in case of a Donald Trump upset. A lot has been made of the fact that McGinty, a moderate who supports fracking and is wishy-washy on sanctuary cities, received millions of dollars from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the primary. What has gotten much less attention is the fact that she was just as much a product of the Philadelphia Democratic Party as the DSCC. Everyone from Brady to former Gov. Ed Rendell to former Mayor Michael Nutter to numerous City Council members backed her in the primary over Democrats John Fetterman and Joe Sestak, two anti-establishment figures who might have fared better in a year in which people were clearly crying out for change. Read more »

Kenney: Trump’s GOP Is the New Know-Nothing Party

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Philadelphians know Mayor Jim Kenney as a man who is passionately pro-immigration. As a Councilman, he told anti-immigration protesters, “You can’t go through life hating.” On his first day as mayor, he signed an executive order making Philadelphia a sanctuary city again. And for years, Kenney has drawn parallels behind the way his Irish ancestors were treated in the 1800s to the way Mexican immigrants are treated today.

Kenney could have chosen to show the nation any number of sides of himself during his speech on Monday at the Democratic National Convention, the most high-profile address of his life so far. He could have talked up his pro-union or feminist bonafides. But with only three minutes to speak, and with the dystopian, dark anti-immigration speeches at last week’s Republican National Convention fresh in his mind, Kenney opted to focus on immigration.

He started his speech by recalling a shameful episode in Philadelphia’s and America’s history: the anti-Catholic riots in the 19th century. Irish Catholics were flooding the city; their numbers ballooned from 35,000 in 1830 to 170,000 in 1850. Nativists opposed the immigrants’ new way of living and worshiping — and they rioted. Read more »

Kenney, Other Philly Pols Added to Lineup of DNC Speakers

Jim Kenney Tom Wolf

L: Jim Kenney (Photo by Jeff Fusco) R: Tom Wolf (Photo by Matt Rourke)

The Democratic National Convention just got a bit more Philly.

Today, the DNC announced five more speakers for the event: Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey, and Congressmen Bob Brady and Brendan Boyle.

“As Donald Trump continues his divisive convention in Cleveland with dangerous ideas that would pose a threat to our economy and national security,” the DNC said in a release, “Democrats are preparing to lay out the clear stakes in this election in Philadelphia — a choice between building walls and tearing people down or an optimistic unifying vision where everyone has a role to play in building our future.” Read more »

Local Democrats Join Unprecedented House Sit-in For Gun Control

In a nod to decades-old, traditional-style protesting, several local Democrats were among more than 200 total to participate in a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, demanding tighter gun control in the wake of Orlando’s mass shooting — the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.

Representatives Bob Brady, Mike DoyleBrendan Boyle and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Donald Norcross of New Jersey joined in to demand a vote on legislation that would bolster background checks and prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Democrats called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to debate and vote on gun legislation next week, despite a scheduled recess.

Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide: 2016 Election’s Biggest Winners and Losers

From L to R:

Clockwise: Mayor Jim Kenney, state Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Darrell Clarke, U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman and labor leader John Dougherty.

Oftentimes, elections feel like they’ve been decided by the powers that be before they’re even over. The 2016 primary was different: It was full of genuine nail-biters. At 8:30 p.m., I headed to state Rep. Dwight Evans’ Election Night party at Temptations on Chelten Avenue, and everyone around me spent the first hour-and-a-half of the celebration hunched over, obsessively refreshing the Department of State’s website on their phones as votes from different areas were counted. They weren’t just tracking Evans’ bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat — they were also following the Attorney General’s race, which looked like it might be won by Stephen Zappala at the beginning of the evening, as well as several close state legislative races.

By the end of the night, a seemingly unstoppable labor leader had lost, along with an indicted congressman, a bajillion-year incumbent, and a state representative who is part of one of the most powerful political machines in the city. What a wild election.

The Winners

1. The Northwest Coalition

The Northwest Coalition, led by Evans and former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, helped put Jim Kenney in the mayor’s office last year. The alliance was also instrumental in electing Derek Green and Cherelle Parker to Council. Now, one of its own is going to Congress — Evans defeated U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in the 2nd Congressional District race yesterday. (Yes, Evans will technically face Republican James Jones in the fall. But, with the district being overwhelmingly Democratic, we all know how this movie ends.) Another sign of the organization’s rising power: Relish, the Northwest Coalition’s Election Day lunch spot, drew bigger crowds yesterday than Famous 4th Street Deli.

What does this mean for the future? Good things for Parker, potentially, if she runs for mayor in 2023. It could also mean bad things for District Attorney Seth Williams if the Northwest Coalition decides to support a challenger when he runs for reelection next year. (Tasco isn’t a fan of Williams’.) It’s worth noting, however, that the coalition did suffer one loss yesterday, which proves it isn’t indestructible: state Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis, its pick in the 200th House District race, was not reelected. Read more »

Bob Brady: Miscommunication May Be to Blame for Amtrak Crash

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U.S. Rep Bob Brady; photo by Jeff Fusco. Amtrak photo by passenger Glenn R. Hills Jr. | @glennhills

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady spent several hours touring the wreckage of Amtrak Train 89 with officials on Sunday in Chester, Delaware County.

After eyeing the crash site, Brady surmised that human error might have played a role in the horrific accident that claimed the lives of two longtime Amtrak employees and sent more than 30 passengers to local hospitals with minor injuries. Read more »

Johnny Doc: “I’m Getting Out of Politics a Little Bit”

John Dougherty | Photo by Jeff Fusco

John Dougherty, head of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

John Dougherty is such a big deal that he doesn’t need the Democratic City Committee anymore. The electricians union boss tells Citified he has stepped down as leader of the First Ward in South Philadelphia.

“I’m getting out of politics a little bit,” he said. Read more »

Philly’s Political Elders Lament the Lack of Millennials Running for Office

Photo by Bradley Maule

Photo by Bradley Maule

Mayor Michael Nutter is in that glorious final phase of his tenure where he’s calling things exactly as he sees them. With seven weeks left in office and very little to lose, he’s taking on everyone from mega-restaurateur Stephen Starr to elections chief Anthony Clark to the School Reform Commission.

One of his most intriguing targets has been millennials. Over the last few months, he’s been shouting from the rooftops that too few young people are running for elected office in Philadelphia. “Where are younger people?” he asked at Philly Mag’s ThinkFest last week. “Are they even thinking about running for office?”

He’s even gotten mean about it: “I’m increasingly concerned that many young people are just finding other avenues. And, you know, having 9 million followers on Twitter is not your level of political engagement.” Read more »

Stephen Colbert Skewered Bob Brady for Stealing the Pope Glass

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Ever since we heard that Congressman Bob Brady stole Pope Francis’ water glass in Washington, D.C. last week (in case you missed the only-a-Philadelphia-Congressman-could-do-this story, go here), we thought that this would be the perfect fodder for Stephen Colbert. And on Tuesday night, Colbert proved us correct with a genius skewering of the congressman. Read more »

Dear Bob Brady: Here’s What You Need to Do With the Pope Glass You Took

In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, and provided by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's office, Brady, D-Pa., holds a glass that Pope Francis used during his speech to Congress, while standing outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. As Pope Francis left the chamber Thursday, Brady, who is Roman Catholic, headed to the lectern to retrieve the pontiff's drinking glass. (Stan White/U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's office via AP)

In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, and provided by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s office, Brady, D-Pa., holds a glass that Pope Francis used during his speech to Congress, while standing outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. As Pope Francis left the chamber Thursday, Brady, who is Roman Catholic, headed to the lectern to retrieve the pontiff’s drinking glass. (Stan White/U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s office via AP)

Follow Philadelphia magazine’s live coverage of Pope Francis’s historic visit all weekend long.

Oh, Bob Brady. You are so Philly. Leave it to you to go to Washington, D.C. for Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress — a truly history-making event — and take the man’s water glass. Read more »

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