13 Biggest Winners and Losers in Tuesday’s Election
There were the obvious winners and losers in Tuesday’s election. In the mayoral race, Jim Kenney eviscerated the competition, while Anthony Williams lost by a downright embarrassing margin. In the City Council At-Large race, challengers Allan Domb, Helen Gym and Derek Green beat a number of formidable opponents, while Council members Ed Neilson and W. Wilson Goode, Jr. lost despite having the power of incumbency on their side.
But what about the other winners and losers — the issues, interest groups and behind-the-scenes players — in the election?
1. Johnny Doc. How could Kenney have ever won Tuesday without controversial labor chief John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty by his side? Would he have even run in the first place if he hadn’t known Doc would be there?
Dougherty’s electricians union was one of the biggest donors to Building a Better Pa., a pro-Kenney super PAC. Doc’s get-out-the-vote operation dominated the polls Tuesday. And he was behind a historic labor coalition that backed Kenney (more on that later). Plus, Doc ally Lisa Deeley won the City Commissioners race. And, yes, former Local 98 official Ed Neilson lost his Council seat. But rumor has it Doc isn’t too fond of Neilson, anyway.
Oh, and if you think the power of super PACs was overstated this election because Kenney’s deep-pocketed super PAC allies were triumphant and Williams’ deeper-pocketed super PAC allies were crushed, talk to Lynne Abraham. She didn’t have a super PAC in her back pocket, and she ended up getting destroyed. She only captured an itty-bitty 8 percent of the vote, even though she began the race with more name recognition than anyone.
2. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The city’s teachers union (and the American Federation of Teachers) proved critical to Kenney. The teachers helped finance Forward Philadelphia, a pro-Kenney super PAC. Helen Gym, the PFT’s No. 1 pick for City Council At-Large, also won Tuesday.
3. Actually, Unions in General. In the 2007 mayoral race, labor unions supported a vast array of different candidates, and the guy none of them wanted won: Michael Nutter. Dougherty and the city’s other top labor leaders vowed that 2015 would be different, and it was. They began organizing months ahead of Election Day with the goal of coalescing around one candidate. Even when they hit a major road bump — their top choice, City Council President Darrell Clarke, announced he wouldn’t run in January — they pressed forward. In the end, the majority of the city’s big unions supported Kenney.
4. State Rep. Dwight Evans. Evans backed Kenney early in the mayoral race, just like he got behind Tom Wolf early in the gubernatorial race. His support of Wolf paid off: He was named to the SEPTA board. His mayoral endorsement will surely pay off too, given that it was even more vital to Kenney’s campaign.
5. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. You so much as criticize Ramsey, like Williams did, and you’ll lose a whole damn mayor’s race. Imagine how indestructible this guy would be if he ran for office himself.
6. Neil Oxman. Again. His Campaign Group was the mastermind behind some of the TV ads aired by Building a Better Pa. The ad man’s spot in the 2007 mayoral race helped usher Nutter into office.
7. The Horn & Hardart Can. Here in Philly, we have a weird tradition: the order in which a candidate’s name appears on the ballot is determined by which bingo ball they draw out of a Horn & Hardart coffee can. Former Council aide Derek Green won the top ballot position in the City Council At-Large race, and he placed first on Election Day. Meanwhile, two incumbents who didn’t get a great ballot position — Neilson and Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. — were defeated.
1. Suburban Millionaires. The founders of the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group sunk an astonishing $6.65 million into a pro-Williams super PAC in 2015. That means they spent about $110 this year per vote (with more than 98 percent of voting precincts reporting). And they don’t have a thing to show for it.
2. Bill Green. The School Reform Commissioner and former City Councilman saw two of his all-time enemies win Tuesday: Kenney and Helen Gym. Perhaps he’ll channel all of the rage he is undoubtedly feeling into an Independent run for mayor or Council this fall.
3. Actually, Sons of Philly Mayors in General. This isn’t a group that’s used to losing. But in addition to Green, the son of Philly’s first black mayor (Goode) lost his City Council At-Large seat in the primary. Plus, Frank Rizzo, Jr., the son of the city’s most well-known mayor of the modern era, lost his bid in the At-Large race.
4. City Controller Alan Butkovitz. Last November, he decided he wouldn’t run for mayor. At the time, Clarke was on the fence about getting in the race. It was probably the right decision. But Clarke ultimately didn’t run, and former city solicitor Ken Trujillo abruptly dropped out of the race. That left a big, gaping hole in the mayoral campaign for a progressive, labor-friendly candidate to fill. Enter Butkovitz? No, enter Kenney. If Butkovitz had beat him to it, or if he’d gotten into the race in spite of Clarke’s ambivalence, he very well might be the nominee today.
5. LGBT Activists. This comes with a big asterisk. Gay rights activists were victorious in the mayoral contest. Kenney is their guy. But in the City Council At-Large race, they suffered defeat. Philadelphia has never elected an out gay person onto City Council, and Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal and others tried mightily to change that this year. They had a good shot. There were two viable gay candidates in the City Council At-Large race: former Reading Terminal Market boss Paul Steinke and Sherrie Cohen, who was endorsed by the city’s Democratic Party. Both lost Tuesday.
6. The Mayoral Forum. At the beginning of the year, activists, reporters and candidates alike praised the fact that mayoral forums looked like they would play a real role in the campaign. The people would be able to see the candidates for themselves! Advocacy groups would get to force them to commit to policy positions! And reporters would be able to ask tough questions night after night! More than 85 forums later, there is perhaps nothing more loathed in Philadelphia political circles right now than the forum format. They were repetitive and sucked the spark out of the televised debates. Goodbye, mayoral forum … until the general election, dammit.