Monday morning was crazy — even before I saw a political candidate riding a horse down Allegheny Avenue in Kensington.
On the agenda was a post-hurricane press stunt scheduled by Cheri Honkala, a Green Party candidate for Philly’s vacant sheriff’s office.
This city is widely known as a one-party, Democratic town, yet the only thing harder than getting elected here as a Republican might be getting elected as an independent.
While many have complained about a dearth of choices that makes it seem like voters are simply choosing from the lesser of two evils on Election Day, outsider candidates rarely do well in Philly’s voting booths.
There are several tangible reasons for this — not least of which is the absolute death grip of an entrenched Democratic machine and an apathetic voting culture, where pulling the old Donkey lever seems more like a genetic disposition than a conscious decision.
But part of the reason independents like Honkala so rarely make it to office also seems to stem from the candidates themselves.
This week, I saw some reasons why third-party candidates have a hard time breaking into City Hall — they often seem disorganized.
With one horse out of the race already — Green Party candidate for City Commissioner, Richie Antipuna, dropped out a few weeks ago after learning that he had failed to switch parties back in May — the party saddled Honkala, their lone surviving candidate this year, onto a horse for a photo opportunity on Monday, Aug. 29.
The problem? For more than an hour after the press conference was set to begin, Honkala’s reps couldn’t secure a steed.
But, obtaining a horse wasn’t the only problem. With the conference set to start at 11 a.m., this reporter was joined by a few others in preparation for Honkala’s arrival, simply standing at Kensington and Allegheny.
We waited, chatting about the weather — it was a beautiful day — and after about 20 minutes, a conversion van pulled up and began setting up a platform, emblazoned with Honkala’s name and campaign slogan: “Keeping Families in Their Homes.”
We introduced ourselves and waited as they setup.
No horse, but we were assured one was on the way.
As we waited, Honkala sat with the Star for an interview — we will have full coverage in next week’s paper.
But, she had to break off the talks when a police officer stepped over to her campaign van to ask her to move along —it was parked in a no-parking zone.
By now, it’s been about an hour, and still no horse.
After shooing away the police officer, Honkala hopped in a car and sped away, assuring us that everything was under control.
Again, we waited for the photo opportunity, and I chatted with Vivek Ananthan, a Northern Liberties resident, supporter of Honkala, president of the non-profit Volunteers for International Solidarity, and as I would learn, not a huge fan of capitalism.
Ananthan faulted the American media for what he sees as coverage designed to support the capitalist system.
All of the stories he sees about communist China are written to make that country look foolish and monstrous, while they actually care for their residents very well, he explained.
I smiled and nodded.
“Where was Honkala with that horse?” I thought.
Then, my education on China was interrupted by an organizer for Honkala: The event was moved and we needed to meet the candidate and her horse.
It’s at 11th Street and Allegheny Avenue instead.
I piled in my car with freelance photographer Faye Murman and Randy LoBasso, who was doing a write up for Philadelphia Weekly.
The three of us drive through Kensington, looking for Honkala and her mystery mare, while navigating Allegheny Avenue — the street snakes off of William Penn’s intended grid pattern after about 9th Street — and I finally parked the car at 11th and Ontario streets and we decided to walk.
I feared it may have been a wild horse chase, but after a short walk, I saw a steed being tended.
In a bare, fenced off, urban stable there was one horse with two men gently brushing its mane. A playful golden retriever rolled around in the dirt as I approached.
“We’re looking for Cheri Honkala,” I said.
“She was here. She left,” they replied.
As intrepid reporters, we began looking through our phones and handheld whatevers to find a number for her office when LoBasso got a call from her people.
She was back at Kensington and Allegheny.
Back on the move, we waited for traffic to dissipate on the return to Allegheny Avenue when a line of kids ran past the car shouting at something on the street.
Then, Honkala rode by.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” blared from the van following her, and one of her organizers repeated her name and campaign slogan over a megaphone in English and Spanish.
Nearly two hours after the event had begun, candidate Honkala sat comfortably atop a magnificent brown horse.
A cowboy hat completed the look as she smiled, waved and trotted on by.
It’s a shame that the event was so hectic. I think Honkala truly believes in her campaign — her desire to keep families from losing their homes to foreclosure is commendable — and if the event were a little more organized, she would have been able to spend time talking about her goals, her reasons for running and why she could be the one to challenge the two-party system.
But, some of that was lost in the race to secure the horse.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org