There will be at least six new members of City Council, and one of those newcomers will represent the 6th Councilmanic District beginning in January.
Republican Sandra Stewart, an activist from Tacony, will face Democrat Bobby Henon, a union official, in Tuesday’s election.
Both candidates are married with two children and making their first runs for office. They are seeking to replace Democratic Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, who is retiring after eight four-year terms. The district consists of nine wards and stretches along the Delaware River from Port Richmond to Torresdale.
Henon, an East Torresdale resident and political director for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, entered the race after state Rep. Mike McGeehan announced he wouldn’t run. He was part of a politically active union that backed the likes of Ed Rendell and John Street, but was untested as a candidate.
In the primary, he raised a ton of money and, thanks to the power of Local 98, picked up endorsements from a majority of the ward leaders and many elected officials. He easily defeated banker and former School Reform Commission member Marty Bednarek, whom Krajewski backed, for the Democratic nomination by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.
Stewart was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Henon overwhelmed Bednarek with television commercials and mailings, but the general election campaign has been much quieter, with the Democratic nominee closing his large campaign office on Frankford Avenue soon after the primary.
“He’s been nowhere to be found after the primary,” Stewart claimed.
The Democrat, who’s been endorsed by The Philadelphia Inquirer, had a conversation with voters last week on a telephone conference call.
“I love the city and I especially love our Northeast neighborhoods,” he told listeners.
Henon has been endorsed by the police and firefighters unions and has discussed police deployment in local districts with Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
“We need cameras in hot spots,” he said.
Henon opposes the Nutter administration policy of temporarily closing fire companies, a decision critics deride as “brownouts.”
“I’m not going to let the budget be balanced on public safety,” he said.
As for the controversial proposed methadone clinic at 7900 Frankford Ave., Henon has attended protest rallies, a community meeting, a zoning hearing and a news conference aimed at toughening laws before similar drug clinics can open in the future.
Henon said the proposed site is too close to schools, houses and businesses.
“We don’t want it in the 6th Councilmanic District,” he said.
During a recent trip to Torresdale Avenue, Henon heard from a pizza shop owner that there is more foot traffic at midnight than noon. Henon wants to form a business development advisory committee and work with area community development corporations so local commercial corridors don’t start resembling some rundown parts of Kensington Avenue.
If elected, Henon has promised to open a district office, probably on Frankford Avenue, so senior citizens and others don’t have to travel to Center City.
“My office will be accessible,” he said, adding that local and City Hall staff will be cross-trained to handle any issue.
Stewart, who considers herself independent and a common-sense candidate, believes Henon is making too many promises.
“Where’s the money coming from?” she asked.
Stewart said she would be better able to secure funding for public safety and other initiatives because Pennsylvania has a Republican governor and GOP-controlled Senate and House of Representatives.
“I know how to work with people,” she said.
Stewart lists the top issues as quality of life, crime, blight, trash and absentee landlords. She also wants to find a way to limit the number of rental properties on a block.
“The No. 1 thing on my agenda has been and always will be zoning,” she said.
Stewart is one of only three Republicans running in the 10 Council districts and has said she’ll never run for office again if she loses because of the pressure to raise money and the time it takes away from family.
In looking ahead to the contest for Council presidency, she will withhold an endorsement because it’s possible other candidates will surface besides Marian Tasco and Darrell Clarke.
“I don’t know who’s running,” she said. “I will remain open minded.”
Henon has ruled out voting for Tasco because she is running for re-election despite being enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Tasco will collect $478,057 in retirement money in January but remain on the job and continue to collect her full salary.
Stewart distances herself from some in the local Republican Party whom she sees as too cozy with Democrats.
“I’m a conservative through and through,” she said.
On Tuesday, Stewart won’t be in the voting booth long. Not because she’s pushing the straight Republican button, but because she’s voting only for herself, David Oh and Denny O’Brien for Council at-large and John Featherman as a write-in for mayor.
Stewart opposes the actual value initiative that is expected to be implemented next year. Properties will be assessed at their actual value, and Council will set the millage rate to determine annual real estate taxes.
Right now, properties are assessed below market rate, and a formula determines the yearly tax bill.
“I think it’s about increasing revenue in the city,” she said of the actual value initiative.
Stewart, a member of the Tacony Civic Association since 2007, contends that Henon has no record of neighborhood activism and is hoping the electorate takes a chance on her.
“Think outside the box,” she is asking voters. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org