Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
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May 29-June 4, 2003

political notebook

It All Comes Out in the Wash

Last week’s Democratic primary election confirmed the almost perfect power of incumbency in Philadelphia. Almost perfect, because incumbent Councilman-at-Large Angel Ortiz lost to Juan Ramos by a slim margin. Ortiz is challenging the 33,617-to-35,075-vote loss.

While Councilman-at-Large Jim Kenney may have been concerned about challenger Mike Driscoll, it turned out to be much ado about nothing. Driscoll, an owner of Finnigan's Wake, a bar and restaurant in Northern Liberties, was backed by a consortium of Northeast Democratic ward leaders who complained they had no representation on Council. But those ward leaders failed to push Driscoll over the edge. Driscoll garnered 25,871 votes. Driscoll, however, pulled ahead of the remaining at-large challengers. Dan Pellicciotti, a nephew of former Councilman Francis Rafferty, followed Driscoll with 23,445 votes. And despite a last-minute push by Gov. Ed Rendell, Joe Grace got 14,104 votes and Pete Fiorentino ended with 12,007 votes.

Kenney, meanwhile, did not get as many votes in the 2003 Democratic primary as he did in the 1999 primary. Last week, he came in fourth, with 56,549 votes, behind fellow incumbents Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode Jr. and David Cohen. Ramos followed Kenney.

Four years ago, Kenney was No. 1 in the primary, with 79,430 votes, out of 29 candidates total.

Maybe Driscoll is not the reason Kenney didn't finish first. It could be because Kenney was indecisive about running for re-election earlier in the year due to his frustration with Mayor John Street.

Elephant Jockeying

Republican City Council at-large candidate Jack Kelly is waiting for party leadership to acknowledge his high numbers in the GOP primary.

Kelly came in second to incumbent Councilman-at-Large Frank Rizzo with 13,305 votes to Rizzo's 15,892. David Hardy followed with 9,722 votes and, surprisingly, party favorite James “Jamie” McDermott was in fourth place with 8,444 votes. David Oh trailed with 6,429 votes.

Kelly said that Republican City Committee's general counsel, Michael Meehan, is pushing McDermott. McDermott is the executive director for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, who last ran for Council at-large in 1999.

Like the Democrats, the GOP runs five candidates for at-large seats in the general election. Due to heavy Democratic allegiances in the city, it is likely that at most, only two Republicans will win at-large seats in November. Per the City Charter, no party may hold more than five seats. In this city that means the Democrats will have five of the seven seats. With Ortiz considering a run on the Green Party ticket, it is possible that the Greens might have their first-ever council seat.

The inside track was that the party was pushing McDermott in addition to shoo-in Rizzo. This baffles Kelly.

"Why would they pick someone that has no political experience?" asked Kelly.

Kelly served as the 7th District councilman from 1988 until 1992, when Dan McElhatton beat him. (Rick Mariano now holds the seat.) Kelly, who said that he lost his council seat because the district became overwhelmingly Democratic, became a lobbyist for the city under the management of John Street when Street was City Council president, and later, under Council President Anna Verna. Kelly has resigned.

"I have experience," said Kelly. "And I am a ward leader and a committeeman. I did not run in 1999 out of respect for Thacher [Longstreth]. But Jamie ran. I don't understand the party."

Kelly went on to say that when he was at the polls on Election Day, he noticed his name was not on the official Republican ballot. "I called Mike Meehan and asked him about it," said Kelly. "He said, "Oh, that's terrible,' but he never did anything about it. I think he cut me," said Kelly. "As a ward leader, it is my responsibility to push the entire endorsed Republican slate," he said.

Meehan said Kelly is wrong.

"We only had one ballot," said Meehan. "And I pushed all five candidates. I'm not going to settle for just two." He added that Kelly pushed himself in Kelly's own ward.

Meehan said that he "gets abused" by the party for not endorsing younger candidates like McDermott, who is 46. Kelly gives his age as "somewhere in his 60s."

McDermott admits he was disappointed with his low numbers and blames his bad ballot position.

"I was way over in the second column," he said. "But that will not deter me for the general election."

Kelly had an advantage because he had the top ballot position.

Some Republicans expect McDermott to receive some votes from Democrats in the general election, since voters can pick both Republicans and Democrats.

Kelly said he spent $20,000 in the primary.

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