The 7th Councilmanic District looks odd on a map.
It starts above Girard Avenue and swells in North Philadelphia. A chubby arm of it sticks into Frankford and a spike of what looks like mismatched jigsaw puzzle pieces reaches all the way up to Grant Avenue in Bustleton.
The district’s freshman councilwoman, Maria Quiñones Sanchez, won the right to continue representing this eclectic collection of poor to middle-class neighborhoods in last week’s Democratic primary. She beat the 23rd Ward’s Democratic leader, Daniel J. Savage, about 6-4.
According to unofficial election results, the incumbent got 7,126 votes; the challenger, 4,632.
A pre-election poll the councilwoman had commissioned showed her taking 59 percent of the vote. No Republicans are running, which means the fall general election will be a no-contest contest for Quiñones Sanchez.
Savage, who had held the seat briefly before losing to Quiñones Sanchez in the 2007 Democratic primary, topped the councilwoman in his home ward and crushed her in the Northeast’s 56th Ward, but the councilwoman’s election-night take on the percentages had her winning 4-1 below the Boulevard. With rain watering down a turnout that was as thin as turnip soup anyway, those kinds of numbers easily carried the incumbent to victory.
Lower turnout usually favors the incumbent. Quiñones Sanchez, 42, was no exception to this long-accepted rule. She won despite the fact that she actually got about 500 fewer votes than she did in 2007. Savage was about 1,500 votes below his 2007 totals. Only about 11,700 voted in the district race; that’s about 1,000 fewer than the total count in 2007.
However, things are different now compared to 2007, the councilwoman said.
“It’s not comparing apples to apples,” she said.
She said the district has about 76,000 voters registered in the two major parties and that her campaign had predicted 10,000 would come to the polls May 17. In that regard, turnout was better than expected.
Most of the Democratic Party’s dozen ward leaders were for Savage, who is one of their own, but their support didn’t add up to much.
Savage won only four of those wards, all in the Northeast. He had won only three of those four in 2007.
Although Savage, 40, handily won his home ward in the lower Northeast by about 2-1, his tally in the 23rd was only about two-thirds that of his 2007 number. The councilwoman’s numbers were a handful higher.
Savage won the district’s single division in the Northeast’s 63rd Ward by about 36 votes. He lost that ward by 9 votes in 2007. The challenger also won the Northeast’s 53rd Ward by almost 200 votes, doing a bit better than he had in 2007.
It was the Northeast’s 56th that gave Savage his largest margin — almost 1,000 votes — beating Sanchez, 3-1.
In all the other wards — the 7th, 18th, 19th, 31st, 33rd, 37th, 42nd and 43rd — Quiñones Sanchez picked up wins with decent-to-great margins.
That split — the Northeast supporting Savage while every other part of the district backing Quiñones Sanchez — was pretty much the same in 2007.
In Kensington’s 7th Ward, Quiñones Sanchez beat Savage by about 1,000 votes despite the fact that the ward’s leader, state Rep. Angel Cruz, was backing the challenger.
“”We knew we were going into territory that was hostile,” she said the day after the election. “I walked many of those divisions myself.”
The councilwoman had predicted she would win the 7th, the 43rd and her home area of the 18th Ward in Norris Square.
In the 19th, her margin was about 1,200.
“The 19th was key,” she said.
In the remaining wards, the numbers for both candidates were low, but Quiñones Sanchez took them by margins between 2-1 and 4-1. The councilwoman also had bested Savage in all but one of those wards in 2007. That year, they were tied in the small part of 31st that is in the councilmanic district.
Campaign finance records available on the Committee of 70’s Web site showed the councilwoman had about $100,000 more to spend on her campaign than Savage had for his.
Both candidates got money and endorsements from unions and other politicians.
The councilwoman had the backing of plenty of big-name Democrats: Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney R. Seth Williams, former Gov. Ed Rendell, state Sen. Tina Tartaglione, state Reps. Dwight Evans and Tony Payton Jr. as well as U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and City Council colleagues Anna Verna and Curtis Jones Jr.
Rendell, Fattah, Nutter, Verna and Jones combined, contributed more than $35,000 to the councilwoman’s campaign.
Savage got some token amounts from some judicial candidates and Democratic wards, but his biggest contributions came from unions — about $52,000.
Quiñones Sanchez had an army of workers wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with her name and her lever number, 191, getting out her vote on May 17.
Those supporters crammed into the New Palladium on West Allegheny Avenue to party and cheer their candidate when she arrived more than an hour after the polls closed.
“Thank you, thank you. Once again, your overwhelming support helped us win today. This is truly the people’s victory,” Quiñones Sanchez said as the crowd chanted her name, clapped and blew whistles.
The 7th district is likely to change as the full Council uses the 2010 Census figures to redraw the city’s electoral map. On election night, Quiñones Sanchez said she favors keeping neighborhoods whole within councilmanic districts.
“”There’s no reason for Oxford Circle to be in three districts,” she said.
Quiñones Sanchez said she and her Council colleagues hope to conclude redrawing Philadelphia’s councilmanic map by the end of the year. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org