Philly Votes (Or Not): Pre-Election Speculation

The questions behind each ballot cast

1. Will Mayor Nutter be embarrassed?
There’s no margin of victory that will make Mayor Nutter look good, but if a laughingstock like Milton Street manages 25 percent or more against him, the mayor will be hobbled right out of the gate on his second term, and those wannabe candidates who lacked the gumption to challenge Nutter will be kicking themselves.

Look too to see how Nutter does in the city’s African American wards. Polls have shown that Nutter’s black support is weak. An election like this—where he faces no legitimate opposition and turnout is likely to be low—is not an ideal snapshot of the broader electorate’s real feelings about Nutter, but it’s something.

2. Whither the GOP?
The GOP mayoral primary is easy to overlook, but you shouldn’t. True, the winner, like every recent GOP candidate not named Sam Katz, has no chance in the fall. But it’s a fascinating election nonetheless, one that could help determine the future of the Republican Party in Philadelphia. Karen Brown—a reformed Democrat enlisted by GOP party bosses to run when no other viable candidates emerged—is the favorite. If she wins, it’s all systems go for the status quo. Her challenger is John Featherman, a real estate agent and true-believer conservative who is part of a small band of Republicans who want the local GOP to be a true opposition party instead of a bit player that exists largely to pick up patronage scraps left behind by the Democrats.

If Featherman wins, which seems unlikely, it’ll be a serious blow to the GOP of old, and could signal the end of Michael Meehan’s control of the party.

3. Will reform voters show?
In 2007, when Nutter was elected mayor, there was a palpable sense that voters were looking for something different from City Hall. Reform was in the air. Now? Not so much. Despite the fact that five sitting council members are retiring this year—a veritable tsunami, by council’s glacial standards—the reformers have largely failed to recreate the sense of urgency that characterized the 2007 election. If they don’t show up Tuesday, and turnout is low, expect machine-backed candidates to do very well.

4. Who has more juice: Nutter or Doc?
The mayor and union boss John Dougherty are both backing a limited slate of City Council candidates this election. The slates aren’t in total opposition (both Nutter and Doc support Mark Squilla in the 1st District, for instance) but it’ll be an interesting test nonetheless of their respective political power.

5. How diverse does the new Council look?
The City of Philadelphia is changing. Latinos and Asians now comprise about 20 percent of the city’s total population, but you wouldn’t guess that to look at City Council, where there is only one Latino and no Asians. Incumbent 7th District Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez should win handily in her Latino majority ward, but many of her ward leaders are backing another candidate, Daniel Savage, instead. In the at-large City Council race, Andy Toy, who is Asian, is mounting a strong bid, though the odds on him unseating an incumbent are long. At-large GOP council candidate David Oh might have the better shot of becoming City Council’s first Asian representative. He is expected to win one of the five GOP primary positions easily. The true test for Oh will come in November.

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