Northeast Times

Squilla comes up big in South Philly

In a four way race, Mark Squilla dom­in­ated in his home turf of South Philly, win­ning the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion to re­place City Coun­cil­man Frank Di­Cicco in 1st Dis­trict.

In a hotly con­tested race for City Coun­cil’s 1st Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict, South Philly res­id­ent Mark Squilla came through with a vic­tory over fel­low Demo­crats Vern Ana­sta­s­io, Jeff Horn­stein and Joe Grace in the May 17 primary.

With no chal­lenge com­ing from the Re­pub­lic­ans, Squilla is set to take over for the re­tir­ing Frank Di­Cicco next year.

While in­de­pend­ent can­did­ates have un­til Aug. 1 to cir­cu­late and file nom­in­a­tion pa­pers, none has stepped for­ward so far.

Squilla, who won with a total of 7,084 votes — his nearest com­pet­it­or, Grace, tal­lied up about 4,000 votes — said he’s ex­cited for the po­s­i­tion.

Squilla said he is eager to take on the job, and that he was glad to get voter sup­port from all areas of the dis­trict.

The dis­trict stretches from South Philly’s Ore­gon Av­en­ue to the lower North­east, and in­cludes parts of North­ern Liber­ties, Fishtown, Port Rich­mond and Kens­ing­ton.

Grace was able to win in sev­er­al wards, in­clud­ing the 5th, which in­cludes North­ern Liber­ties, the 18th in Fishtown and Kens­ing­ton South; and his home turf of the 25th and 45th in Port Rich­mond.

With 49 per­cent of the vote, Horn­stein took the 31st Ward, which in­cludes north­ern Fishtown and parts of Kens­ing­ton as well as the 2nd Ward in Queen Vil­lage.

But Squilla, a Whit­man res­id­ent, dom­in­ated in South Phil­adelphia, tak­ing the 1st Ward and the massive, polit­ic­ally act­ive 39th Ward, where his 3,721 votes ac­coun­ted for 52 per­cent of his total vote count.  

“It was a sur­pris­ing mar­gin that we won by,” said Squilla, who re­turned to his day job as a sys­tems ana­lyst in the Pennsylvania Of­fice of the Aud­it­or Gen­er­al.

Squilla said he thought all of his op­pon­ents ran a good race, though he was frus­trated that some me­dia cov­er­age fo­cused on his high-pro­file sup­port­ers rather than his cam­paign plat­form.

Squilla was backed by Di­Cicco and John Dougherty, head of the polit­ic­ally power­ful In­ter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tric Work­ers Loc­al 98, among oth­ers.

Those as­so­ci­ations lead some to cast Squilla, a South Philly nat­ive, as the “ma­chine” can­did­ate.

When Di­Cicco an­nounced in March that he would not seek a fourth term in City Hall, he im­me­di­ately named Squilla as his favored suc­cessor.

Di­Cicco’s en­dorse­ment was soon fol­lowed by Demo­crat­ic Party lead­ers in­clud­ing U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-1st dist.), May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter, state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1st dist.), and a num­ber of ward lead­ers.

“Some people judged you be­fore they met you. That was a little dis­ap­point­ing … It was very up­set­ting to me,” he said, not­ing that voters listened to his mes­sage even if polit­ic­al com­ment­at­ors knocked the early sup­port he re­ceived.

“People listen,” he con­tin­ued. “There are good people throughout the dis­trict who will listen to you.”

For the 48-year-old Squilla — who, be­sides be­ing elec­ted as ex­ec­ut­ive com­mit­tee rep­res­ent­at­ive for Demo­crat­ic Ward 39B, has led South Phil­adelphia’s Whit­man Coun­cil since 2008 — the race was something of a whirl­wind.

In the weeks lead­ing up to the elec­tion, the four can­did­ates spent plenty of time in de­bates and ad­dress­ing civic groups, something he said helped de­vel­op friendly com­pet­i­tion that led to a race re­l­at­ively free of mud­sling­ing.

“The can­did­ates ended up lik­ing each oth­er,” said Squilla. “We ended up spend­ing more time with each oth­er than we did with our fam­il­ies.”

He said the race provided an edu­ca­tion that he be­lieves will help him bet­ter serve con­stitu­ents if he takes of­fice in 2012.

“The city of Phil­adelphia is made up of neigh­bor­hoods. That’s what is so great about this,” he said. “They (oth­er can­did­ates) came from dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods and had great ideas.”

While Di­Cicco’s suc­cessor won’t take of­fice un­til early 2012, Squilla said he plans to con­tin­ue work that will al­low him to “hit the ground run­ning” at City Hall.

He said he wants to reach out to com­munity groups throughout the dis­trict this sum­mer to in­tro­duce him­self and be­come fa­mil­i­ar with is­sues spe­cif­ic to each neigh­bor­hood.

ldquo;A lot of com­munit­ies felt like they wer­en’t heard (in City Hall) and I want to change that,” said Squilla.

Squilla said his most im­me­di­ate con­cern is the planned re­dis­trict­ing of the city’s polit­ic­al dis­tricts fol­low­ing the 2010 Census.

City Coun­cil dis­tricts are based on pop­u­la­tion, and the latest fig­ures show that the 1st Dis­trict grew in the last 10 years. That means the dis­trict will have to shrink, giv­ing con­stitu­ents to neigh­bor­ing dis­tricts that have not seen the same growth. 

Squilla said that is a real con­cern be­cause his of­fice fol­low­ing re­dis­trict­ing might not serve those who voted for him last week.

He may, however, be power­less to in­flu­ence the re­dis­trict­ing, as it will oc­cur be­fore the gen­er­al elec­tion.

“I know that’s something I can’t con­trol too much, but I’d like to have some say,” Squilla said.

Over­all, Squilla said he’s ex­cited to take of­fice and he looks for­ward to serving res­id­ents.

“It’s not go­ing to be easy, but I’m up for the chal­lenge,” he said.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

1st Dis­trict vote totals by ward

1st Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   13.79 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  13.08 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  59.73 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   13.41 %

2nd Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   25.87 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  26.54 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  18.14 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   29.45 % 

5th Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   14.10 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  41.65 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  12.34 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   31.91 %

18th Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   27.27 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  37.66 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  23.38 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   11.69 %

23rd Ward: 

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   9.09 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  25.25 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  60.61 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   5.05 %

25th Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   18.67 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  40.75 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  35.17 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   5.41 %

31st Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   11.29 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  20.52 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  18.28 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   49.91 % 

39th Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   10.33 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  7.94 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  76.30 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   5.43 %

45th Ward:

ANA­STA­S­IO, VERN   20.62 %

GRACE, JOSEPH M  37.76 %

SQUILLA, MARK F  20.23 %

HORN­STEIN, JEFF   21.39 %

Source: www.phillyelec­tion­res­ults.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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