Al Taubenberger seemed on the verge of winning an at-large City Council seat in the Nov. 8 election.
There were 11 candidates for seven seats. The five Democratic incumbents — Bill Green, Jim Kenney, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode Jr. and Bill Greenlee — were easy winners, since so many people simply push the straight Democratic button and walk out of the voting booth.
Dennis O’Brien easily led his fellow Republicans and independent Richard Johnson for the sixth seat.
Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, was the fourth Republican listed on the ballot, based on his showing in the primary last May. David Oh, a lawyer and ward leader from Southwest Philadelphia, was the leading vote-getter in the primary, but in the summer began to face accusations of exaggerating his military record.
For much of election night, Taubenberger held a lead of 1,000-plus votes over Oh. He outpolled Oh in each of the 14 wards in the Northeast, piling up a margin of more than 6,400.
However, Oh was stronger in most of the rest of the city, where the votes generally are counted later in the evening. Ultimately, Oh pulled ahead by more than 100 votes.
Taubenberger, with a weak voice, addressed supporters at the Cottage Green at about 11:10 p.m., with a few dozen divisions not reporting.
“This thing is really not over,” he said. “Absentee ballots have not been counted. This fight is certainly not over. We have to look at everything.”
By Monday night, however, the fight appeared over. Oh led by 165 votes on the machines and picked up a net of three more votes when absentee ballots were counted. More than 750 provisional ballots were to be counted on Tuesday, but they failed to boost Taubenberger past Oh.
By Tuesday afternoon, after a check of the provisional ballots with Oh and Taubenberger present, Taubenberger conceded the race and congratulated Oh.
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In his election-night address, Taubenberger thanked campaign workers Chris Wright and Lou Feinberg and Teamsters Local Union 830 business manager Danny Grace. The candidate vowed to continue fighting with Grace to oppose a sugary drink tax backed previously by Mayor Michael Nutter.
“I felt really great for a while, being up fourteen-hundred,” Taubenberger said later in the night as he sat down for a meal.
The crowd included two people who’ve won elections thanks to absentee ballots. In 2000, then-state Rep. John Perzel came back to defeat Democratic challenger Mark Chilutti. In 2007, now-outgoing Councilman Jack Kelly made up a deficit against Oh.
This time, though, Oh had the votes to become the first Asian-American councilman.
According to the latest tallies from the city commissioners’ office, Oh was leading Taubenberger by 165 votes with one division still not reporting as the Times went to press.
In the Northeast, Taubenberger won the 63rd Ward. O’Brien won the 57th, 58th, 64th and 66th wards and received the most votes of any at-large candidate in the Northeast. Green won the 23rd, 35th, 41st, 53rd, 54th, 55th, 56th, 62nd and 65th wards.
ldquo;I’m very proud of the race I ran,” Taubenberger said. “I really came out strong in the Northeast. My neighborhood really came out and supported me overwhelmingly. I’m honored to get so many votes out of Northeast Philadelphia.”
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Meanwhile, Al Schmidt easily defeated incumbent and fellow Republican Joe Duda for the third and final city commissioners spot. Democrats Stephanie Singer and incumbent Anthony Clark were easy winners.
Schmidt will likely support Singer, who toppled nine-term incumbent and chairwoman Marge Tartaglione in the primary, as the next chair of the panel.
Though he was the challenger, Schmidt was expected to beat Duda because of his exhaustive campaign schedule.
Republican City Committee general counsel Mike Meehan said he was disappointed in Duda’s loss. Schmidt is the informal leader of a group that has been looking to overthrow Meehan and chairman Vito Canuso.
“Schmidt ran a good campaign,” Meehan said.
In other city races, Mayor Nutter won another four-year term with just under 75 percent. Republican Karen Brown had almost 22 percent and did much better in Northeast wards. Independent Wali Rahman received under 4 percent.
In a victory speech at the Radisson-Warwick Hotel, Nutter’s theme was, “We’re not done yet.” His focus in the next four years will be crime, poverty, jobs and education.
“Tonight is not a time for satisfaction, but impatience, restlessness, an urgency, a boldness … a determination to push forward and build on the foundations we have laid,” he said.
Democrat Jewell Williams, a state representative from North Philadelphia, will be Philadelphia’s next sheriff. He won almost 75 percent of the vote. Republican Joshua West took about 19 percent, winning in the 57th, 58th, 63rd, 64th and 66th wards. The Green Party’s Cheri Honkala, a longtime affordable-housing activist, claimed about 7 percent.
Democrat Ron Donatucci easily won another term as register of wills despite being enrolled in the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan. He defeated Republican Linda W. Bateman with 77 percent of the vote. Bateman carried the 58th, 63rd and 66th wards.
In statewide races, the parties split two races. Democrat David Wecht took 54.6 percent to defeat Republican Vic Stabile for a seat on Superior Court. Republican Anne Covey received 52.4 percent to beat Democrat Kathryn Boockvar in the race for Commonwealth Court.
In Philadelphia, voters selected 11 Democrats for Common Pleas Court and two Democrats who were running unopposed for Municipal Court.
Christine Solomon, a Castor Gardens resident and longtime Democratic leader of the 53rd Ward, won 82 percent of the vote to beat Republican Lewis Harris in the race for a seat on Traffic Court. Voters also approved new terms for all judges up for retention at the city and state levels.
Philadelphians also OK’d a bond question allowing the city to borrow more than $111 million for capital purposes and approved a change in the Home Rule Charter to create a rainy day fund. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org