Big drama in at-large race

On Tues­day, 11 can­did­ates will be vy­ing for sev­en City Coun­cil at-large seats.

The five Demo­crat­ic in­cum­bents — Jim Ken­ney, Wilson Goode Jr., Blondell Reyn­olds Brown, Bill Green­lee and Bill Green — are all but guar­an­teed an­oth­er four years be­cause their party has a voter-re­gis­tra­tion ad­vant­age of more than 6 to 1 over Re­pub­lic­ans.

Ac­tu­ally, for Green, it’ll prob­ably be a term of about two and a half years, since he is widely ex­pec­ted to resign to run for may­or in 2015.

The race also in­cludes in­de­pend­ent Richard John­son, but he is not ex­pec­ted to be a factor.

The real race is for the two seats guar­an­teed to the minor­ity party by the city charter. Re­pub­lic­ans have settled for those seats for 60 years. The can­did­ates are Joe Mc­Col­gan, Denny O’Bri­en, Dav­id Oh, Al Tauben­ber­ger and Mi­chael Un­ter­mey­er.

Here is a look at the can­did­ates:

• Joe Mc­Col­gan, 49, of East Tor­res­dale, fin­ished third in the nine-per­son primary and later de­clined over­tures from some to switch to the may­or­al race. He is a two-time con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate, los­ing in 1990 and ’96 to then-Rep. Bob Bor­ski. He is a U.S. Navy vet­er­an who earned an MBA from Vil­lan­ova Uni­versity and has worked in the fin­an­cial ser­vices in­dustry.

His cam­paign has not of­fi­cially re­leased polling, but is spread­ing word that a large sur­vey of likely Re­pub­lic­an voters show him trail­ing only O’Bri­en, with Tauben­ber­ger third, Oh fourth and Un­ter­mey­er fifth.

He has been en­dorsed by the po­lice and fire­fight­ers uni­ons.

He was a vo­cal crit­ic of former School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia su­per­in­tend­ent Ar­lene Ack­er­man and has called for the elim­in­a­tion of the School Re­form Com­mis­sion and cre­ation of smal­ler school dis­tricts and an elec­ted school board. Phil­adelphia is the only one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and 501 school dis­tricts that does not have an elec­ted school board.

He has de­clared his op­pos­i­tion to Coun­cil­wo­man Mari­an Tasco’s bid to be­come Coun­cil pres­id­ent, cit­ing her en­roll­ment in the De­ferred Re­tire­ment Op­tion Plan. Tasco will col­lect $478,057 in re­tire­ment money in Janu­ary but stay on the job and col­lect her full salary.

Mc­Col­gan would re­fuse to ac­cept a city pen­sion or vehicle.

He de­scribes Phil­adelphia as a great city that is “taxed too much and edu­cated too little.”

“The prob­lem is, it doesn’t have great lead­er­ship.”

He’d serve only two four-year terms and would lim­it Coun­cil mem­bers to three terms.

“If noth­ing else, it would bring new ideas to the city of Phil­adelphia,” he said.

• Denny O’Bri­en, 59, of Mill­brook, was the run­ner-up in the primary des­pite not hav­ing the party en­dorse­ment. He was first elec­ted to the Pennsylvania House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives in 1976. He served two terms, then lost a close con­gres­sion­al primary in 1980. He won back his former seat in 1982 and has coas­ted to re-elec­tion ever since. In fact, Demo­crats haven’t even run a can­did­ate against him since 1998.

He de­feated fel­low Re­pub­lic­an John Perzel to be­come speak­er dur­ing the 2007-08 ses­sion. Demo­crats held the ma­jor­ity but couldn’t agree on a can­did­ate for speak­er, so most of them joined with sev­er­al anti-Perzel Re­pub­lic­ans to el­ev­ate him. Demo­crats con­trolled every com­mit­tee un­der him, but even­tu­ally dumped him for the 2009-10 ses­sion after elect­ing one of their own as speak­er.

Most polit­ic­al ob­serv­ers ex­pect him to be the top Re­pub­lic­an vote-get­ter next week. If he some­how loses, he’ll face a di­lemma, since the 169th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict was moved on Monday to York County. A spe­cial elec­tion will be held in the new 169th, as­sum­ing he wins the Coun­cil seat.

He lives in the 66th Ward, 43rd Di­vi­sion, which is sched­uled to be moved in­to the 173rd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict. If he loses the Coun­cil race and runs for re-elec­tion, he’d square off against Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mike McGee­han in what would be an epic show­down.

He is best known for his ad­vocacy of chil­dren with dis­ab­il­it­ies.

“We can­not af­ford not to be for the most vul­ner­able.”

Oth­er fo­cuses of his over the years have been health care, edu­ca­tion, crim­in­al justice and youth or­gan­iz­a­tions.

“I’m very pas­sion­ate about what I do. I think my ad­vocacy sep­ar­ates me from every­body else. I am not go­ing to be a back-bench­er.”

He has been en­dorsed by former Gov. Ed Rendell, The Phil­adelphia In­quirer and the po­lice and fire­fight­ers uni­ons.

• Dav­id Oh, 51, of South­w­est Phil­adelphia, topped the primary field. He also sought an at-large seat in 2003 and ’07, los­ing nar­rowly to Coun­cil­man Jack Kelly, who is re­tir­ing.

He is a law­yer, ward lead­er and former as­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­ney who has served on the boards of, among oth­ers, Naz­areth Hos­pit­al and Naz­areth Academy High School.

“The re­sponse has been very fa­vor­able,” he said of voters’ re­ac­tions to his cur­rent bid.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, he apo­lo­gized for any con­fu­sion or mis­im­pres­sion he cre­ated when he er­ro­neously de­scribed him­self as a Spe­cial Forces-qual­i­fied Green Ber­et or Spe­cial Forces Of­ficer. In fact, he was a 2nd lieu­ten­ant as­signed to a Na­tion­al Guard Spe­cial Forces unit. The Roxbor­ough-based Re­view news­pa­per called for him to leave the race.

He is proud to be en­dorsed by the United Vet­er­ans Coun­cil.

Crime in­creases and qual­ity of life de­creases when there is a lack of jobs, he be­lieves. He wants the city’s tax struc­ture to be “smart” and “stable” for busi­nesses and res­id­ents.

“We have to see to it that our ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ers can pay their em­ploy­ees, and new op­por­tun­it­ies come to our city so we can crank up the eco­nomy.”

He plans to be a hard work­er and ac­cess­ible to res­id­ents of all neigh­bor­hoods.

“I be­lieve we’re one city, that to­geth­er as a city of neigh­bor­hoods, the sum is great­er than the parts.”

He has en­joyed meet­ing people dur­ing all three cam­paigns and is hop­ing for a big cel­eb­ra­tion on Tues­day night at Mc­Gil­lin’s Old Ale House in Cen­ter City.

“I’m hop­ing they give me chance to rep­res­ent them and, giv­en the op­por­tun­ity, I will do the best I can.”

Among those en­dors­ing him is Demo­crat­ic Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones Sanc­hez.

• Al Tauben­ber­ger, 58, of Fox Chase, fin­ished fourth in the primary. He’s the long­time pres­id­ent of the Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Burholme Com­munity Town Watch and Civic As­so­ci­ation. He lost Re­pub­lic­an con­gres­sion­al primar­ies in 2004 and ’06 and was the GOP can­did­ate for may­or in 2007.

He has re­leased a poll show­ing him run­ning neck-and-neck with O’Bri­en and Oh. His strongest sup­port comes from Re­pub­lic­ans, ac­cord­ing to the poll, which also sug­gests Oh could be hurt by the mil­it­ary is­sue.

He has cri­ti­cized Oh for be­ing the at­tor­ney for Burholme’s Purple Orch­id go-go bar, which was try­ing to re­open fol­low­ing the ar­rest of a man­ager on drug charges.

“There are dif­fer­ences among the can­did­ates.”

He be­lieves he is uniquely qual­i­fied to be an at-large coun­cil­man be­cause of his past em­ploy­ment as a dis­trict Coun­cil aide and his roots in com­munity act­iv­ism. One fo­cus would be aban­doned houses.

“Our neigh­bor­hoods are worth fight­ing for.”

He said the ac­tu­al value ini­ti­at­ive could be “dis­astrous” for city prop­erty own­ers. The ini­ti­at­ive is sched­uled to be im­ple­men­ted next year and would as­sess prop­er­ties at their mar­ket rate. Coun­cil would set the mil­lage rate to de­term­ine yearly real es­tate taxes.

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter re­cently ap­poin­ted him to the Phil­adelphia Jobs Com­mis­sion, and he is proud of his as­sist­ance in help­ing the Agusta heli­copter man­u­fac­turer grow to 600 em­ploy­ees at its Red Li­on Road site. He plans to be an ad­voc­ate for small busi­ness in Coun­cil and to op­pose any fu­ture le­gis­la­tion to raise the tax on sug­ary drinks.

Former City Con­trol­ler Jonath­an Saidel, a Demo­crat from Bustleton, has en­dorsed him.

Tauben­ber­ger has vowed to op­pose Mari­an Tasco for the Coun­cil pres­id­ency be­cause of her en­roll­ment in DROP.

• Mi­chael Un­ter­mey­er, 60, of Old City, was fifth in the primary des­pite be­ing un­en­dorsed. Hav­ing the top bal­lot po­s­i­tion helped. He’s a real es­tate de­veloper and law­yer who has spent 15 years as a pro­sec­utor and coun­sel in the gov­ernor’s in­spect­or gen­er­al’s of­fice. He ran in the 2007 Demo­crat­ic primary for sher­iff and was the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for dis­trict at­tor­ney in 2009.

He’d sell Phil­adelphia Gas Works, golf courses and maybe the air­port. He’s give busi­nesses a 20-per­cent tax cred­it for two years for each new em­ploy­ee.

“I want to be your fisc­al watch­dog,” he told voters at a re­cent for­um. “The city should get out of the busi­ness of run­ning busi­nesses.”

He is run­ning on a mes­sage that Coun­cil mem­bers need to wake up.

“I think City Coun­cil is asleep.”

He rails against no-bid con­tracts and the use of out­side law­yers by the Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity.

“It’s fisc­al in­san­ity.”

DROP should be for po­lice of­ficers and fire­fight­ers only, in his opin­ion.

He’d have a zero tol­er­ance policy for school vi­ol­ence.

“If you’re sev­en or sev­en­teen, I’d have you out of the gen­er­al school pop­u­la­tion that day. No second strike. No third strike.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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