Kenyatta Johnson Defeats Ori Feibush, Ending Long, Ugly Battle

Their campaign was one for the record books.

Johnson: PA House of Representatives; Feibush: Jeff Fusco

Johnson: PA House of Representatives; Feibush: Jeff Fusco

On Tuesday night, incumbent Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson handily defeated challenger Ori Feibush in the 2nd District race, bringing to a close the most drawn-out and negative race that this primary season has seen. With 97% of the polls reporting, Johnson is on track for a decisive victory with 63% of the vote.

In an interview Tuesday night, Feibush said, “I was honored to have the opportunity. I was obviously disappointed for not being able to deliver for all the people who have been fighting day and night for us to be successful here.”

Of the results, Feibush said, “We won in so many wards, but unfortunately we lost significantly in Point Breeze and we could not overcome that.” 

It was a divisive campaign that was about more than selecting a councilman. The contest was a battle over gentrification, since Feibush, the wealthy developer, is seen by some as responsible for gentrification of the badly-blighted Point Breeze section of Philadelphia. And it also highlighted racial tension in the fast-changing Second District. The choice, for some, boiled down to an African American Point Breeze native versus a rich white Jewish guy originally from the suburbs.

Feibush made it known years ago that he was determined to unseat Johnson in City Council, with Philadelphia magazine contributor Simon van Zuylen-Wood profiling him and detailing his ambitions in a profile way back in May 2013.

“I look at somebody like Kenyatta as somebody who actively is engaging his staff in harnessing his power for evil,” Feibush told van Zuylen-Wood back then. He also called his future opponent “a terrible human being” and a “poverty pimp” in that article. In other words, the gloves came off long ago.

That bad blood continued in June 2014, when Feibush sued Johnson in federal court, claiming that Johnson was abusing his office by interfering with Feibush’s development plans, a charge that Johnson denied. Johnson tried unsuccessfully to have Feibush’s complaint dismissed, and the case continues to wind its way through court, with Feibush filing a new complaint and Johnson a response to it in April.

And last summer, things got truly dirty when it was revealed (by us) that one of Johnson’s most politically connected consultants tried to hire infamous blogger Joshua Scott Albert (he was behind that much-loathed Staphmeal site) to pen an anonymous anti-Feibush blog. Albert claimed that he backed out of the deal, while the consultant simply told us that “the decision was made not to do it.”

But that wasn’t the end of the dirt. Most recently, there was anti-Feibush vandalism in Point Breeze, with some poorly drawn graffiti reading “don’t vote 4 Ori” on some walls in Point Breeze.

Feibush said that two weeks earlier, one of his campaign offices was vandalized and one of his company cars wound up with a slashed tire. Of course, there was no evidence that Johnson’s campaign had anything to do with the vandalism, and before Feibush even formally started his campaign, a dead dog arrived on his doorstep and someone threw a brick through a window of a coffee shop he owns.

And finally, to add some icing to the dirty campaign cake, the Johnson campaign launched a direct mail torpedo directly into the image of Feibush as the rich white guy. The ad featured Feibush reclining in a hot tub and declared that Kenyatta’s deep-pocketed challenger was “running for City Council to enrich himself.” Feibush said that the image was probably swiped off of his girlfriend’s Facebook page.