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 »

Councilman Derek Green Introduces Bill Addressing Gayborhood Racism

Councilman at Large, Derek S. Green, Esq.

Councilman-at-Large Derek S. Green, Esq.

On the heels of the October 25th Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations hearing on Gayborhood racism, City Councilman-at-Large Derek Green introduced companion bills on Thursday that would tie a business’s ability to retain its commercial activity license to its adherence to the city’s existing Fair Practices Ordinance. Read more »

OPINION: As a Black Gay Man, I No Longer Support the Human Rights Campaign

Courtesy of Human Rights Campaign.

Courtesy of Human Rights Campaign.

Just one week before Election Day, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization — the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — is causing a stir. On Saturday, HRC president Chad Griffin, revoked the organization’s endorsement of Illinois GOP Senator Mark Kirk after Kirk made racist remarks against Democrat challenger U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth during a debate. This was the first time in HRC’s 36-year history that it had rescinded an endorsement of a candidate from either political party.

Read more »

Curt Schilling: I’ll Run for Senate Against Elizabeth Warren

Curt Schilling during his Wall of Fame induction at Citizens Bank Park on August 2, 2013.

Curt Schilling during his Wall of Fame induction at Citizens Bank Park on August 2, 2013.

Ed Wade famously described Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling as a horse every fifth day, and “on the other four days, he tends to say things which are detrimental to the club and clearly self-serving.” The reader was left to fill in the punch line: A horse every fifth day, and a horse’s ass the other four. Read more »

The (Too?) Careful Candidate: Inside Katie McGinty’s Senate Run

Photography by Will Figg

Photography by Will Figg

I have been getting some pretty weird emails from Senator Pat Toomey’s reelection campaign lately. There’s an anxious, almost desperate quality to them.

“Can’t sleep” was the subject of one from late June, which arrived a few hours shy of an important fund-raising deadline.

“Had to email you,” said another.

“Running out of time.”

“please … ” Read more »

Opinion: Marc Lamont Hill, I Can’t ‘Afford’ a Donald Trump Presidency

Photo of Marc Lamont Hill via Hill's website; photo of Trump via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Marc Lamont Hill via Hill’s website; photo of Donald Trump by Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons

Trailblazing Black gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin once said, “Let us be enraged about injustice, but let us not be destroyed by it.” In the midst of this presidential campaign, the Black community couldn’t be more enraged. Many rightfully feel as though neither major political candidate — Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump — will best serve the interests of the people. Some have taken it a step further by considering voting for a third-party candidate.

One of those individuals is Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a powerhouse commentator and scholar on race and politics. But such a position is more dangerous for our community than he and others might imagine. Read more »

Meet the New Class of Latinx Political Leadership

philly-latinx-political-leaders-940x540

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times for wonkish Latinx folks like me.

With the Democratic National Convention just two weeks away, there’s a certain amount of exhilaration at the prospect of the Party’s P-A-R-T-Y in Philly.

But it’s also depressing. No, I’m not talking possible SEPTA nightmares (though there is that). It’s just that, as a Latina, I’m unlikely to be seeing more than a handful of mi gente among the ranks of the party’s top pols.

The sad reality is that I’d have a better chance of that at the Republican National Convention. Chew on that for a while (especially given the GOP’s not-so-friendly-to-Latinxs policies). From rising star governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval to former presidential contenders Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the GOP has cultivated a deeper Latinx bench — where top pols are concerned — than the Dems.

Oh, sure, cabinet members Thomas Perez and Julian Castro and Congressman Xavier Becerra have been named as potential VP picks for Hillary Clinton, but nobody — not even representation-starved Latinxs — are betting that any of them will actually be selected for the number two post.

And that lack of bench is not just a national thing.

Precious few of Pennsylvania’s pledged delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and none of the superdelegates, are Latinxs. Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez, and State Representatives Ángel Cruz and Leslie Acosta are the pledged delegate exceptions … but where are the young, up-and-coming Latinxs? Where is the next generation of Latinx political leadership?

The answer is that the new Latinx political class is still in the wings, laying the groundwork for the future from within the party, behind the scenes, and at the grassroots.

I hope in the next number of months to highlight folks in the city and region who are beginning to make their mark politically, but I start with three engaging — and engaged — Latinxs.    Read more »

A History of Violence: Philadelphia Political Brawls

"Justice" engraved on Philadelphia's City Hall

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The first thing I do when I wake up, before I fully open my eyes, is indulge a ritual that goes back to my cable-less childhood, when school days were bookended by Action News broadcasts and Jim Gardner was God: I grab my phone and open the 6ABC app to see what’s happened in Philly overnight. How many shootings? How many fires? Was there was a hit-and-run, or a standoff with police? Did something tragic occur in some town I’ve never heard of in Gloucester County or Delaware? I can’t start my day until I know.

The other morning when I clicked on the app, the headline read: “Philadelphia Streets commissioner charged with simple assault.” Donald Carlton, who started his career almost a quarter century ago as a trash collector, was alleged to have punched a man several times at a party in December. The DA brought charges that also included reckless endangering. Given that he’s been Streets Commissioner for all of five minutes, I said aloud (to the dog, I guess), “Jesus! I can’t believe it.” Then I thought of that comedy routine by Tig Notaro: Read more »

Atlantic City Makes Bond Payments, Avoids Default (For Now)

Photo | Dan McQuade

Photo | Dan McQuade

Atlantic City made a $1.8 million bond payment this morning, but Mayor Don Guardian could not guarantee at this point the city would make its bond payment next month.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t put the bonds before payroll, before schools, before anyone else,” Guardian said. “But if we didn’t make our bond payment, it would be detrimental to everyone, including us.” The mayor said the city would be able to meet payroll this month, and expected to make a payment to the school district on May 15th.

Atlantic City had considered skipping the bond interest payment in order to make payroll, which would make it the first New Jersey municipality since the 1930s to default on a bond payment. Read more »

Hey Philly: Are You All In for Hillary? Or Are You Feeling the Bern?

A Hillary Clinton supporter waits outside her April 20th rally at the Fillmore. Photo | Ryan Collerd

A Hillary Clinton supporter waits outside her April 20th rally at the Fillmore. Photo | Ryan Collerd

On the night of the Brooklyn Democratic debate, I head toward the South Philly field office of Bernie Sanders for President. The address takes me to a storefront with an enormous overhang bearing the name of the former tenant, Boutique W — a discount designer-clothing store based in Newtown Square — in pink and black lettering. It’s an odd sort of welcome sign for the grassroots, 99-percenter campaign, but then again, office space is office space and inside, the place looks more the part.

Young volunteers are passing around phone-bank lists like an aggressive game of Go Fish and chomping on Chips Ahoy during breaks. Folding tables are scattered with HP laptops and bottled water. There’s a garbage can humorlessly labeled “garbage.” And clipboards. Lots of clipboards. Everyone seems to believe that South Philly, perhaps more than any other neighborhood, is Feeling the Bern. I float to the back of the no-frills, white-walled space and chat with a shaggy-haired campaign worker who speaks on background (only volunteers can speak on the record, I was told). He nonetheless wanted to know: “Do you like Bernie?”

Two days before the Pennsylvania primaries, that question would seem a relevant one to ask of anyone and everyone in Philadelphia. Of course, it ignores the Republicans who’re also voting on April 26th (recent polling suggests Donald Trump has a double-digit lead in the state), but given the 7-to-1 edge in registered Democrats in the city and the upcoming DNC this summer, it seems right to focus on the blue team here. (Also: Liberal media bias, natch.)

But truth be told, writing any story about the Tuesday primary feels like an obligatory act of self-aggrandizement, considering the national consensus that our vote means zilch. Why Pennsylvania won’t matter much in either primary,” ran a headline in the Washington Post on Thursday. Hillary Clinton is cruising, having locked up 81 percent of the delegates required to secure the nomination. And, thanks to the Dems’ lack of winner-take-all primaries and the omnipotent Clinton-friendly superdelegates, she can conceivably lose every single remaining state and still win by a comfortable margin. Not that she appears to be in any danger of that: Depending on which of the latest polls you believe, the former Secretary of State has a 13-point or 27-point lead over Sanders among likely primary voters in the Keystone State, where she beat Barack Obama by nearly 10 points in 2008.

Last time, the race felt neck-and-neck; in 2016, it’s a runaway. The wide berth is just one reason for the apathetic mood of lots of Philadelphians though. “I’m not supporting a broken system,” says Paris Adams, 19, a young man from Frankford who said he supports Sanders, but doesn’t see the point in casting a ballot. “Unless Captain America is running, I’m not voting.”

In ’08, voters like Adams were exactly the type — well-informed, African-American, eligible for the first time — that the Obama ground game famously turned out in droves. After an economic recession and eight years of gridlock in Washington though, voters appear to be a lot more jaded. A Pew analysis of a dozen primaries (including Super Tuesday) suggests that Democrat voter-turnout rates have been roughly 60 percent of what they were during Obama v. Clinton. The most optimistic spin is that turnout has not been cataclysmically bad. Dems are voting at higher rates this year than in 2000, sure, but they’re slightly off the pace of the average turnout since 1980. (And that average is excluding the outlying year of 2008.) The enthusiasm this year can be summed up in a single word: MehRead more »

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