His upcoming role in Philadelphia politics has been clear for some time, but after last week’s general election, Democrat Mark Squilla will soon officially take the reins of the city’s 1st City Council district.
For months — since May’s primary elections, in fact — Squilla has existed as the only official candidate in the race to replace Frank DiCicco in the district that stretches from South Philly’s Oregon Avenue to the lower Northeast, and includes parts of Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Port Richmond and Kensington.
On the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 8, after Squilla racked up a total of over 14,000 votes in his unopposed run, the candidate celebrated his win at the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 8, at 2401 Swanson Street in South Philly.
Only 28 votes were placed against Squilla, all for write in candidates.
“It really feels good,” said a smiling Squilla as he made the rounds that evening, shaking hands and hugging supporters. “It’s nice to know that all that hard work paid off.”
Knowing the candidate would win was something the Squilla campaign was assured of for some time — in fact, Josh Cohen, a Squilla spokesman said the campaign caught flack online earlier this year when a campaign email called Squilla’s victory a “foregone conclusion” — and in the months ensuing, Squilla has been holding fundraisers for his campaign.
This has caused some to wonder why a politician, whose election was essentially a certainty, would need to continue to hold fundraising events.
“We wanted to hit the ground running,” said Squilla.
The candidate said that in the past months, he’s used the time to meet community and business leaders throughout the district.
The need for added funding, he said, was to fund campaign costs like last week’s victory party and to provide funding to a host of non-profit groups — the list of which he said would be available when his campaign finance report is made available.
Post election finance reports need to be filed with the state by Dec. 8.
“I wish I could afford it all myself,” said the councilman elect. “But, I can’t do that.”
Asked about his plans once he enters office next year, Squilla said he’s excited about a jobs bill he’s currently working on.
If all goes according to plan, Squilla said the bill could potentially create 100,000 new jobs in Philadelphia – 10,000 a year for 10 years – by supporting programs, like the Southport Marine Terminal project, a $450 million project intended to make Philadelphia a more enticing port for business as well as the plan to dredge the Delaware River.
He’s also looking throughout the district right now to find eligible areas that could see investment as business improvement districts.
“We are looking at ways to create business improvement zones that will bring in new businesses,” he said.
During the victory celebration, Jeff Hornstein, who had run against Squilla for the Democratic nomination in the primaries, congratulated the councilman elect on his victory and said he looked forward to working with Squilla in the future.
“I plan to stay active in civic life and Mark’s a good guy,” said the former candidate.
As the evening wore on, Squilla was joined by his wife Bridget, his son, Mark and daughters, Gabrielle and Bridgid. His other daughter, Danielle could not attend; she’s currently enrolled at Penn State University.
Joined by his family, Squilla said he’s learned a lot from facing Hornstein and his former opponents Joe Grace and Vern Anastasio, saying all of the candidates were focused on one goal: making the district a better place for all of its residents.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Squilla said. “There are some good people out there and it’s important to listen to them.”
With his arm wrapped around his smiling wife, Squilla ended his comments to the audience with a request for input from all Philadelphians.
He said that in order to Make Philadelphia a better place, he would need support and participation from residents of his district.
Once he takes office as a City Councilman, Squilla said, the door to that office would always be open to the public.
“You always have a say in my office,” promised the councilman elect. “I need your help. Anything you can do to improve this city, bring it to my office and we will discuss it.” ••
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or email@example.com