How Rebecca Rhynhart Defeated Philadelphia’s Democratic Machine

City Controller candidate Rebecca Rhynhart | Photo courtesy of Rhynhart’s campaign

In the wake of Philadelphia’s paradigm-shifting primary, the district attorney election has gotten far more attention than any other race. But the results of the city controller face-off were far more surprising — and arguably more emblematic of the weaknesses of Philly’s Democratic machine — than the DA’s election.

Rebecca Rhynhart, a top financial aide for two mayors and a former Wall Streeter, won the controller’s Democratic primary in a landslide, defeating three-term incumbent and party favorite Alan Butkovitz by 17 percentage points. Unlike the winner of the Democrats’ district attorney election, progressive Larry Krasner, Rhynhart did not have the benefit of an independent political action committee with $1.45 million in the bank. Nor did she enjoy Krasner’s diehard fans or his ability to capture the imagination of the national media. Rhynhart was also competing on the Democratic Party’s home turf: She challenged a longtime politician in an off-year election. These races are typically won by party-endorsed candidates, in part, because so few voters cast ballots in them.

So how did Rhynhart pull off her upset victory? The election was a perfect storm, say campaign staffers, party insiders and other political observers — and it holds key lessons for future outsider candidates. Read more »

OPINION: Mayor’s Commissions Are an Exploitation of Diverse Community Labor

City Hall | Photo by David Gambacorta

There’s no way to put this nicely — the racial diversity of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration sucks.

For a majority-minority city, somehow the bulk of top leadership positions at City Hall are occupied by whites (as seen in this February 2016 analysis by Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein) and seem set to remain that way. In June 2016, PolitiFact PA estimated that at least 60 percent of the Kenney administration’s head honchos are white, along with 61 percent of exempt employees making $90,000 or more annually. When it was revealed during last year’s budget hearings that people of color make up only 22 percent of executive staffers in departments overseen by the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), City Council president Darrell Clarke described the disparity as “clearly problematic.” Read more »

The Biggest Winners and Losers in Philadelphia’s 2017 Primary Election

Clockwise: Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif, Democratic district attorney nominee Larry Krasner, Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police chief John McNesby, labor leader John Dougherty, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, ward leader Marian Tasco, and protesters at Philadelphia’s Women March.

Philadelphia’s election on Tuesday was a game-changer. The winner of the Democratic primary for district attorney is a criminal defense lawyer who has never prosecuted a case in his life and made a name for himself by suing law enforcement over alleged abuses and representing progressive activists like Black Lives Matter. A young ex-budget director crushed incumbent City Controller Alan Butkovitz, the ultimate political insider, in an upset victory.

Those two Democratic nominees, Larry Krasner and Rebecca Rhynhart, are the race’s biggest winners. But who are the other winners and losers — the issues, interest groups, and kingmakers — in the election? Here’s our list: Read more »

Rebecca Rhynhart Unseats Incumbent City Controller Alan Butkovitz

Left: Alan Butkovitz (photo courtesy of Curtis Blessing). Right: Rebecca Rhynhart (photo courtesy of Rhynhart’s campaign).

Democrat Rebecca Rhynhart defeated incumbent city controller Alan Butkovitz in an upset victory on Tuesday, earning 58 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.

Rhynhart’s success in the primary election is yet another sign that the power of the city’s Democratic machine is waning. Butkovitz, a ward leader and decades-long politician, was endorsed by the local Democratic Party. Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide to the 2017 Philadelphia Primary

Clockwise: District attorney candidates Larry Krasner, Joe Khan, Rich Negrin, Teresa Carr Deni, Jack O’Neill, Tariq El-Shabazz, Beth Grossman and Michael Untermeyer. | Photos courtesy of the campaigns

Do you loathe that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the War on Drugs? Are you glad he’s finally restoring law and order to the country? Do you think the city spends too much money locking people up? Just enough? Too little? If you answered affirmatively to any of these questions, then you should vote in this year’s district attorney race. The DA prosecutes crimes in Philadelphia, helping to determine whether justice is delivered to victims and how many people end up in prison every year. The choice in front of voters is as important as ever: Current District Attorney Seth Williams has been accused by the feds of seeking thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes and stealing from his own mom.

Voters will also choose Philadelphia’s next city controller, judges, and election board workers on Tuesday, as well as vote on two ballot questions.

Don’t worry if you haven’t paid close attention to these races — it’s why we created this election guide and an accompanying list of endorsements for each candidate in the district attorney race. It’s a ruthlessly honest, easy-to-understand explanation of the candidates’ pros and cons. Here are your choices. Read more »

Rendell Endorses Rebecca Rhynhart for City Controller

Courtesy of Rebecca Rhynhart's campaign

Courtesy of Rebecca Rhynhart’s campaign

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has endorsed Rebecca Rhynhart in the race for Philadelphia City Controller.

Rhynhart, 42, stepped down from her role as Mayor Jim Kenney’s chief administrative officer shortly before she announced her run against third-term incumbent Alan Butkovitz last December.  Read more »