Why a Special Election to Replace Chaka Fattah Could Get Messy

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L: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP) R: State Rep. Dwight Evans (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah resigned Thursday after apparently realizing that Republicans (and, hell, even some Democrats) weren’t cool with his plan to stick around for an extra three months after being convicted of corruption.

Soon, Gov. Tom Wolf might schedule a special election to fill Fattah’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District — and if he does, things could get messy.

During special elections, a/k/a/ elections held to replace officials who quit or die or are sent to prison before the end of their term, ward leaders choose the nominees. In Philadelphia, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1, that means Democratic ward leaders essentially handpick the winners of every special election. (That’s how we do it in the birthplace of American democracy, everybody!) You might think Democratic state Rep. Dwight Evans would be the natural pick for ward leaders here: Evans defeated Fattah in the April primary, and is expected to win the general election against Republican James Jones.

But don’t be so sure: I asked Philadelphia Democratic Party boss Bob Brady if Evans would have enough support among leaders to be nominated if a special election were held. “I don’t know if there’s enough support,” he said, “but there will be [some] support for him.”
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Wolf Nominates Republican Judge to Fill Eakin’s Supreme Court Seat

L: Courtesy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, R: Courtesy Governor Tom Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

L: Courtesy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania; R: Courtesy Governor Tom Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

Governor Tom Wolf nominated Superior Court Judge Sallie Updyke Mundy to fill a vacant seat on the Pa. Supreme Court.

Mundy would fill the seat formerly held by Justice J. Michael Eakin, a Republican from Cumberland County who resigned earlier this year in the wake of the Porngate email scandal. Eakin was the second Supreme Court justice to resign over the emails, following Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat who left office in 2014.

Wolf announced the news — along with a slate of other judicial nominees — Monday alongside Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa.

Mundy, 53, is a Republican. If Senate members confirm the nomination, she’ll hold the seat until the start of the next 10-year term, which begins in January 2018. Elections for the term will be held next year.

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PLCB Approves Six-Pack Licenses at Gas Stations

Six packs of beer at Pennsylvania gas stations

Yesterday, we told you about Gov. Tom Wolf’s plea to “free the six-pack” at Pennsylvania gas stations. Wolf called for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to approve several licenses that

On cue, today the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board approved nine applications yesterday. Several were from gas stations asking to be able to sell six-packs of beer (up to 192 fluid ounces at a time). Almost as if this were designed this way, Wolf then released a statement complete with hip graphic (above) declaring victory and praising the LCB. Hrmm. Read more »

Gov. Tom Wolf: “Free the Six-pack” in Gas Stations

Tom Wolf - six pack of beer

Six pack photo by Alan Levine, used under a Creative Commons license

You soon might be able to buy gasoline and beer at the same location — though not at the same time.

In a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board titled “Free the Six-pack,” Gov. Tom Wolf asks the PLCB to allow gas stations to sell six packs of beer at attached convenience stores. The liquor code currently forbids the LCB from approving any new licenses “where the sale of liquid fuels or oil is conducted.”

But, Wolf writes, the LCB should approve 12 such gas station licenses to sell up to 192 ounces of “malt or brewed beverages.” Though the law says the board should not approve such licenses, Wolf says a recent court case has reversed one item in the liquor code: 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 »

Relish Was Hot on Election Day — While Famous 4th Street Deli Was a Ghost Town

State Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Derek Green, former Mayor John Street, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Tom Wolf were among the many politicos at Relish today.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Derek Green, former Mayor John Street, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Tom Wolf were among the many politicos at Relish today.

This year, Josh Shapiro didn’t go to the power crowd’s longtime Election Day lunch hangout Famous 4th Street Deli. Instead, the Democratic frontrunner in the Attorney General’s race dined at the other, newer power lunch spot in Philadelphia: Relish, a Southern restaurant in West Oak Lane that serves immaculate fried chicken and mac and cheese. “This is where real folks come to enjoy themselves in the middle of a busy Election Day,” Shapiro told me, as he worked the room in a crisp blue jacket and rimless glasses. “I enjoy the camaraderie here.”

Shapiro wasn’t alone. While the Famous 4th Street Deli managed to attract only a small crowd Tuesday, Relish was awash with politicos. Gov. Tom Wolf was there. So was Mayor Jim Kenney, who appeared on a live show on 900AM WURD that was broadcast  from the restaurant. U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty was there, too. Ditto former Mayor John Street, District Attorney Seth Williams, Pennsylvania Democratic Party leader Marcel Groen, state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Sen. candidate Sharif Street, state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Councilman Derek Green, Laborers business manager Ryan Boyer and … the list goes on.

Is Relish officially the new place for politicos to see and be seen on Election Day? “This place is taking over,” said Leach, who was noshing with Aren Platt, a political advisor to Councilwoman Cherelle Parker. “I grew up on Jewish deli food, so Famous always has a special place in my heart. But I gotta tell you, this place is terrific. We shall see how this rivalry plays out over the next few years.”

State Rep. Dwight Evans built Relish into the hot spot that it is today. He and former Councilwoman Marian Tasco are the leaders of the Northwest Coalition, a powerful alliance of black politicians that gained a great deal of political clout when it decisively endorsed Kenney in the mayor’s race. The fact that pols swarmed Relish, as Famous 4th Street Deli looked like a ghost town, underlines how much power the coalition has gained in the last year. Read more »

Bill Green: I’m Taking Tom Wolf to Court Over SRC Ouster

Bill Green | City Council Flickr

Bill Green | City Council Flickr

Update: Governor Tom Wolf has responded to Bill Green’s claims that he lacked the authority to unseat him as chair of the SRC. A statement issued by his spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan reads:

“Governor Wolf used his authority, as provided by statute, to appoint the chair of the School Reform Commission and to bring new leadership to the school district, which has been devastated by education cuts. Even now, after the governor has fought for greater investment in education at all levels and started to restore the funding Philadelphia lost, the district is in dire financial straits and our children are at a disadvantage. Due to misguided and poor decisions made by Harrisburg politicians, the district has been forced to lay off educators, cut important programs and slash transportation, security and other vital services. Governor Wolf will continue fighting for more funding for education and to provide a new path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.”

Earlier: Last spring, after the School Reform Commission he chaired had approved five new charter schools in Philadelphia, Bill Green was removed from his role as chair by Governor Tom Wolf and replaced with fellow commissioner Marjorie Neff.

Wolf was said to not want any new charter schools approved. Neff had voted against the new charter applications. At the time, Green, a former Philadelphia City Councilman, had said he planned to challenge the governor’s authority to make such a move. Then some time passed, and that challenge never came. Fast forward one year, and Green, in an oped in today’s Inquirer, says his challenge is coming now.  Read more »

Governor Tom Wolf Legalizes Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

tom-wolf-signs-medical-marijuana-law-940x540

In a move that’s been in the works for some time, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf  announced yesterday that medical marijuana is now legal in the state. The Pa. House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing medicinal pot back in March, the Senate passed it last week, and Wolf has now made good on his promise to approve it once it reached his desk.

“I am proud to sign this bill that will provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from this treatment,” Wolf said in a statement. “I applaud members of both parties in the House and Senate who have come together to help patients who have run out of medical options and want to thank the thousands of advocates who have fought tirelessly for this cause.”

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