City Councilman Brian O’Neill has easily won re-election every four years since narrowly unseating Democrat Melvin Greenberg in 1979, but he faces an aggressive opponent in a district that is just one-third Republican.
So, O’Neill is busy banging on doors in the expansive 10th Councilmanic District.
“I find that voters really like it,” he said. “It’s another way to stay in touch.”
On Saturday afternoon, he and a team of four supporters — Joe McGarrity, Bill Pirolli, Bobby Yerkov and Kiersten Reichner — knocked on doors in the 66th Ward, 12th Division, in Parkwood and Rambler Park.
Reichner carried a clipboard that contained sheets listing residents who are considered likely or somewhat likely to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
O’Neill faces Democrat Bill Rubin, the city’s former supervisor of elections. The Times reported in last week’s editions on Rubin’s door-to-door campaigning in Morrell Park.
Rubin enjoys a big voter-registration advantage. Fifty-eight percent of voters are Democrats, 33 percent are Republicans and the remaining 9 percent are independents or registered with minor parties.
O’Neill, 61, is the only Republican to represent one of Council’s 10 districts. Republicans are contesting only two of the other nine districts.
There are seven at-large members, and the Home Rule Charter reserves two seats for the minority party, which has been the GOP for the last 60 years.
Four years ago, O’Neill faced a spirited challenge from Democrat Sean McAleer. He prevailed by a count of 18,129 to 13,018.
Like that year, the incumbent expects to get to half the doors in the district. He anticipates that turnout will be a little lower because, in 2007, there was an open mayor’s race.
Many residents weren’t home on Saturday. Several women were in house dresses or had rollers in their hair, and one wearing an apron was busy baking cookies from scratch. They asked that a handout be placed in the door.
For the ones who opened their doors and were willing to greet the councilman, O’Neill handed them a jar opener and campaign literature that touts him as “keeping the Northeast a great place to live, work and raise a family.” Kids received a magnetic chip clip.
The literature boasts of O’Neill’s 99.5-percent success rate in representing neighbors in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. It states his opposition to the real estate hikes the last two years, and the councilman will tell you that he opposed property tax increases dating to the Bill Green and Wilson Goode mayoral administrations. It also mentions his district office and endorsement by the police and firefighters unions. He was also endorsed last week by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
There is one underlined statement that reads, “Brian has not and will not take DROP.”
As for Rubin, O’Neill believes his opponent’s literature and cable television commercial are misleading.
In the TV spot, O’Neill is pictured with a bag of money falling into his hands.
“It indicates that I’ve taken DROP, and I haven’t,” he said of the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan.
In a piece of literature, the challenger contends that O’Neill wanted to eliminate Fox Chase from his district in the recent Council redistricting.
“I’d have to be out of my mind to want to get rid of Fox Chase. Fox Chase is my strongest area,” he said.
Besides the door-knocking, O’Neill is running a TV commercial and plans to send four direct-mail pieces. On Election Day, he’ll rely on committee people and volunteers, including a bunch of police retirees.
During the weekend canvass, one woman on Aster Road was happy to see O’Neill. His office helped her in a dispute with a neighbor.
“You have a great office. Congratulate your girls,” she said.
While O’Neill was pleased with the results of a poll he commissioned about a month ago, one indication that Rubin could be a real threat is the number of lawn signs he has in the district.
The O’Neill team knocked on the door of a Medford Road residence that had a Rubin sign, and the woman told the crew she was not interested and closed the door.
Most residents simply accepted the literature without much comment, but one man on Medford Road complained that a city paving crew damaged his curb.
Another man from Rambler Road complained about dead trees and the lights on Academy Road turning red in a sequence that slows the flow of traffic.
A man from Morning Glory Road complained about getting called to jury duty for being registered to vote and told O’Neill he wanted Sunday hunting legalized. The councilman couldn’t help him, since the hunting bill is pending in the state legislature, but the man was pleased to receive the jar opener, since it’ll help him pull the arrows out of his targets. ••