How Johnny Doc Almost Took Out Maria Quiñones-Sánchez

His union appears to have funded a get-out-the-vote operation for her no-name opponent.


From L to R: Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and electricians union leader John Dougherty.

How in the world did an allegedly gay-hating, voter ID-loving racist who no one has ever heard of nearly beat an incumbent Democratic Councilwoman who both John Street and Bill Green III believe will be mayor one day?

That question has stumped political insiders since the Philadelphia primary battle between Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, the two-term Councilwoman, and Manny Morales, whose Facebook page likened gay men to flatworms and did a whole lot of other crazy stuff. Sánchez won the election with only 53 percent of the vote.

Reporter Max Marin offers a potential answer in Al Dia that is pretty intriguing — and which has big implications for the Sánchez’s political future.

Marin reported that Philadelphia’s powerful electricians union, headed by the political kingmaker John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, donated $50,000 a few days before Election Day to two wards in Sánchez’s district led by Carlos Matos and state Rep. Angel Cruz. Matos and Cruz are enemies of Sánchez’s as well as members of Latinos United for Political Empowerment (LUPE). The union also gave $25,000 to Friends of Leslie Acosta, who is a member of LUPE, too.

LUPE supported Morales in the 7th District Council race. It also initially backed Latino candidate Nelson Díaz in the Democratic mayoral primary — that is, until he refused to support Morales. Via Marin:

[LUPE] requested over $102,000 from Díaz for the joint get-out-the-vote effort with Manny Morales in the 7th District. Díaz, however, refused to run side by side with 7th District after allegations of Morales’ racist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant views.

[Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney] accepted LUPE’s endorsement with gratitude, on the condition that it he did not personally support Morales.

Moreover, Kenney’s camp said that they would in no way pay for a get-out-the-vote effort with Morales, despite that it was a condition of their endorsement. Kenney’s own campaign finance records prove it.

But on paper, Political Action Committees (PACs) and private donors like Local 98 are forbidden to coordinate with the campaigns. They can, however, work behind the scenes to ensure that political allies stay happy and well-funded.

Morales had an impressive get-out-the-vote operation on Election Day, as Al Dia has reported previously. Now it appears that Doc funded much of it.

So does this mean Dougherty was explicitly trying to take out Sánchez? Well, not exactly. It’s true that the two are rumored to be, well, not the best of friends, and he has supported her opponents in the past. But it’s pretty clear that Doc’s primary goal here in donating to Matos’ and Cruz’s wards was to help Kenney. Sánchez was (almost) collateral damage.

Should Sánchez decide to run for mayor one day, as former Mayors Street and Green are predicting, her relationship with Doc could hurt her chances. He was one of Kenney’s most important political allies in the mayoral race, and he recently helped build a powerful alliance of labor groups that could influence elections for years to come.

It will be interesting to see whether Sánchez tries to win him over in the next few years. Hey, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. After all, she won over Danny Savage, her former political rival as well as a Doc ally, just a couple months ago.