Bobby Henon believes his talk about neighborhood revival, jobs, public safety and quality-of-life issues won him the Democratic primary in the 6th Councilmanic District.
“I ran a positive campaign with a message that resonated,” he said.
Henon, a Torresdale resident, married father of two young boys and political director of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, defeated Marty Bednarek with 65 percent of the vote.
The outcome was not a surprise. Two Henon-commissioned, pre-election polls gave him a lead of 35 points.
The victory party took place at Rosewood Caterers, the same place Bednarek, a banker, youth sports leader and former School Reform Commission member from Lexington Park, announced in December that he would seek the seat.
Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, Democratic leader of the 65th Ward, had served since 1980, but she decided to retire. She planned to endorse state Rep. Mike McGeehan, who also had union support and was the favorite to win the seat.
However, in early January, McGeehan announced that he would not run. Henon immediately jumped into the race and collected almost all of the union endorsements.
Still, Bednarek won the nod from Krajewski and already had the backing of ward leaders Bob Dellavella (55th), Pat Parkinson (57th), Marge Tartaglione (62nd) and Lorri Bednarek (64th), his wife.
Alan Butkovitz, Democratic leader of the 54th Ward, signed on with Bednarek.
However, Butkovitz, Dellavella and Parkinson switched their allegiances, giving the party endorsement to Henon.
The party backing, the union endorsements and a 3-to-1 advantage in campaign cash carried Henon to an easy victory. Henon was able to run cable television commercials. His opponent was not.
“I couldn’t overcome that money,” Bednarek said at his election-night party at the Cottage Green. “It was an uphill battle.”
Now, Henon will face Republican Sandra Stewart, a community activist from Tacony, in the general election.
“I’m looking forward to running the race full tilt,” he said.
At her home polling place at a church at Frankford and Shelmire avenues, Krajewski was joined by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president John McNesby and several other police union members backing Henon. The FOP distributed hot dogs to voters. Henon won the division by five votes.
Later, Krajewski attended Bednarek’s party. She agreed with Bednarek that Henon’s money was the difference.
“He raised seven hundred grand,” Krajewski said of Henon. “That’s tough to beat.”
The 200 volunteers who wore red T-shirts featuring his ballot No. 191 imposed on a basketball buoyed Bednarek, who has three grown daughters. He knows many of them from sports and others from Washington Savings Association, where he is CEO.
The first-time candidate said he was disappointed but not upset with the outcome. He has no regrets.
“I gave it a shot. If you don’t take a shot, you can’t make a basket,” he said, repeating advice given to the young people he coaches.
Bednarek called Henon to concede, then spoke to his supporters at about 9:45 p.m.
The losing candidate recalled the threatening telephone message he received early in the campaign, warning him to get out of the race. Authorities have not charged anyone in the case. He also spoke of losing the support of three ward leaders, but thanked Krajewski, Tartaglione and his wife for staying by his side.
“I’d go to battle with these three ward leaders any time,” he said.
Bednarek, who also served stints on the former Board of Education and the Zoning Board of Adjustment, will return to his banking job and will eventually be back on the sideline as a coach.
Looking ahead, he wants to stay active in public service, saying he believes in the city. He is proud of the campaign he ran.
“I tried to give people a choice,” he said.
Stewart, the Republican, will also give voters a choice. Henon plans to stay active on the campaign trail.
“It feels great, but I have a lot to do,” he said of the general election campaign. “It will be a different focus.”
During the primary, Bednarek stressed that Henon would be controlled in office by John Dougherty, a South Philadelphia ward leader and the powerful head of the electricians union.
Dougherty refuted the accusation. He attended Henon’s victory party and expects him to defeat Stewart.
“He’s going to be good for the Northeast,” Dougherty said.
Dan McCaffery, a Delaire Landing resident and likely candidate for state attorney general next year, served as Henon’s campaign treasurer. He called Bednarek a “great guy,” but said the campaign contributors and voters saw something special in Henon.
“People recognized Bobby as someone who’ll provide energetic, new leadership for the Northeast,” he said. “Bobby Henon will be an excellent councilman.”
Henon, who easily won all nine wards, repeated his pledge to open a district office and to be the hardest-working councilman in the city.
“I made some campaign promises, and I have to deliver,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org