Pulse: That Other Election

In a one-party town like Philadelphia, the May primary, not the general election, holds all the juice. But while the five donkeys vying for the mayoral nomination bray at each other during endless community forums, in the hay lie some key races that could realign power in City Council, where normally an incumbent has to murder someone to get bounced (and even then, he might still be re-elected).

In the First District, incumbent Frank DiCicco and challenger Vern Anastasio (who have battled for this turf before) are now both publicly blasting the new casinos proposed for the district, but Anastasio has gained some traction by hammering DiCicco for not fighting sooner. The race could become the most expensive ever waged for a Council seat. And if “general public frustration over the casinos is strong enough,” argues Brett Mandel, the executive director of Philadelphia Forward, DiCicco could be sent packing.

In the Fourth District, embattled Carol Ann Campbell faces a stiff challenge from two other candidates, white Matt McClure and black Curtis Jones, possibly resulting in the oddity of the white vote deciding the winner. “She has ward support, but she is a lightning rod,” Mandel says of the incumbent. As in the first, there’s a lot of cash flowing into this contest, too.

Finally, in the bizarrely gerrymandered Seventh District, Dan Savage, who replaced loopy convicted former officeholder Rick Mariano, boasts the advantage of several months of incumbency, but is still reeling from the bruising special election he won in November. “People are upset, and he doesn’t have a real strong hold on the seat,” says Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. “Maria [Quiñones Sanchez] has good support, is a good, attractive candidate, and has made it clear that this Hispanic district needs Hispanic representation.”