In the 169th district, a pair of hearty contests


Fi­nally, there’s some com­pet­i­tion in the 169th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict.

Former Rep. Denny O’Bri­en, a Re­pub­lic­an, last faced a Demo­crat­ic chal­lenge in 1998.

Last year, O’Bri­en proved his pop­ular­ity wasn’t lim­ited to his dis­trict, as he eas­ily cap­tured an at-large City Coun­cil seat. He resigned at the end of 2011, and his dis­trict of­fice on Academy Road closed.

Demo­crats wer­en’t eager to chal­lenge O’Bri­en, but now that he’s moved to City Hall, they have a well-fun­ded can­did­ate who might be able to cap­it­al­ize on the party’s big voter-re­gis­tra­tion ad­vant­age.

Ed Neilson, 48, who lives in the Far North­east’s Chalf­ont neigh­bor­hood, is a former polit­ic­al dir­ect­or for In­ter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tric­al Work­ers Loc­al 98. He was a deputy sec­ret­ary in the De­part­ment of Labor and In­dustry un­der Gov. Ed Rendell. Today, he is dir­ect­or of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Chartwell Law Of­fices.

Neilson is un­op­posed in Tues­day’s primary and is the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate in the spe­cial elec­tion that will be held the same day.

• • •

Dave Kralle, 25, who lives in Nor­mandy but spent al­most his whole life in Chalf­ont, is the en­dorsed Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate in the primary and the GOP choice for the spe­cial elec­tion. He’s worked for O’Bri­en for a dec­ade, start­ing when he was an in­tern in high school. He moved to O’Bri­en’s cam­paign staff while in col­lege and later worked in his House and Coun­cil of­fices. He’s been a 66th Ward com­mit­tee­man since he was 18.

John Mc­Cann, 34, of East Tor­res­dale, is also run­ning in the Re­pub­lic­an primary. He has a law de­gree and has been a teach­er for 11 years.

Neilson, thanks to sup­port from labor uni­ons, is win­ning the money battle. He has enough cam­paign cash to run a bunch of cable tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials and op­er­ate phone banks. He’s been en­dorsed by Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5 and In­ter­na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Fire Fight­ers Loc­al 22. He’s pleased with the strong sup­port he’s get­ting from Demo­crat­ic ward lead­ers and elec­ted of­fi­cials. FOP pres­id­ent John McNesby has been a tire­less cam­paign­er on his be­half.

“I’m humbled by the whole ex­per­i­ence,” he said.

• • •

All of the can­did­ates have spent hours most days knock­ing on doors.

Neilson, an Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School gradu­ate, talks about his wife and five sons and his in­volve­ment as a lead­er with the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica and a coach with Cal­vary Ath­let­ic As­so­ci­ation.

“I’m meet­ing as many people as I can be­fore Elec­tion Day,” he said. “I’m run­ning like I’m a hun­dred points down, like I don’t have one vote.”

Kralle, an Arch­bish­op Ry­an gradu­ate, cites his en­dorse­ment by O’Bri­en, his work as a lect­or at Our Lady of Cal­vary, his roles with the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil, Chalf­ont Town Watch, Ry­an Alumni Board and An­cient Or­der of Hi­ber­ni­ans Di­vi­sion 17 and his former du­ties as dir­ect­or of Cal­vary A.A.’s in-house base­ball pro­gram.

“My cam­paign is fo­cused on knock­ing on doors and get­ting people to polling places,” he said.

Mc­Cann, a former star bas­ket­ball play­er at Fath­er Judge, tells res­id­ents that he has chosen to re­main in the North­east and will sup­port policies that en­cour­age people to stay in the city. He has the back­ing of the As­so­ci­ation of Pennsylvania State Col­lege and Uni­versity Fac­ulties and Hu­mane PA. Al­ways by his side on the cam­paign trail are his young­er broth­er Bri­an and his secret weapon, his 2½-year-old son Quentin. Oth­er fam­ily mem­bers and friends are help­ing out.

“I of­fer ex­per­i­ence in edu­ca­tion, out­side of polit­ics,” he said. “I’m the fourth gen­er­a­tion to grow up here. I’m ves­ted. I think I can add com­mon-sense solu­tions to prob­lems.”

Mc­Cann be­lieves lower­ing taxes and provid­ing re­sources to lower crime rates can sta­bil­ize and even in­crease pop­u­la­tion.

“I’m go­ing to try to reel some people back in,” he said.

Mc­Cann de­clined to say for whom he’ll vote in the spe­cial elec­tion.

“I wish both of them good luck,” he said.

• • •

In all, there will be six spe­cial House elec­tions. Re­pub­lic­ans con­trol the House, 110-87.

No mat­ter the out­come of Tues­day’s spe­cial elec­tion, Neilson is guar­an­teed a spot on the gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot. That race might be for the fi­nal two-year term in the 169th dis­trict in Phil­adelphia.

The Le­gis­lat­ive Re­ap­por­tion­ment Com­mis­sion last week passed a pre­lim­in­ary map that moves the dis­trict to York County. It is one of five dis­tricts that both parties agreed to move. The dis­tricts either have va­can­cies or up­com­ing re­tire­ments, and their new loc­a­tions have seen in­creases in pop­u­la­tion.

If the maps don’t change, the win­ner of the two-year term would have to chal­lenge Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mike McGee­han in 2014, since all of their res­id­ences will be in the 173rd dis­trict.

None plan to move with the dis­trict to York County.

“I like it too much in North­east Philly,” said Mc­Cann, who star­ted the year plan­ning to chal­lenge McGee­han un­til the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court re­jec­ted the ori­gin­al maps.

Neilson reas­ons that Demo­crats might want to keep the seat if he wins the spe­cial elec­tion.

“It gives me a seat at the table. I’m the best chance the neigh­bor­hood has to keep it whole,” he said.

Kralle dis­agrees.

“It’s crit­ic­al for the people of North­east Phil­adelphia who want to keep the dis­trict here that I win the spe­cial elec­tion,” he said. “I’ll be a mem­ber of the ma­jor­ity party, and I’ll be able to re­open that con­ver­sa­tion.”

Kralle sup­ports school vouch­ers for Cath­ol­ic and private schools, fa­vors the state’s new voter iden­ti­fic­a­tion law and wants to stiffen the pen­al­ties for crimes com­mit­ted with il­leg­al guns.

• • •

The en­dorsed Re­pub­lic­an has re­leased a five-point plan to com­bat child sexu­al ab­use. The plan in­cludes re­mov­ing the crim­in­al and civil stat­utes of lim­it­a­tions for child sexu­al ab­use, al­low­ing ex­pert testi­mony at tri­al and re­quir­ing people to re­port know­ledge of the crime to law en­force­ment, not merely a su­per­i­or with­in their or­gan­iz­a­tion.

Mc­Cann, a build­ing rep­res­ent­at­ive for the New Jer­sey Edu­ca­tion As­so­ci­ation, has re­leased a six-point plan for pub­lic edu­ca­tion that fo­cuses on tech­no­logy, char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and vo­ca­tion­al schools. He’d add pub­lic school teach­ers to the School Re­form Com­mis­sion.

If elec­ted, Mc­Cann would donate the whop­ping $163 per diem le­gis­lat­ors re­ceive to the FOP Lodge 5 Sur­viv­or’s Fund.

Neilson con­tends that his back­ground sets him apart.

“Ex­per­i­ence mat­ters,” he said. “Both can­did­ates com­bined don’t match my re­cord.”

Neilson plans a bi­par­tis­an ap­proach­ing to serving.

“I’m rep­res­ent­ing a dis­trict, not a party. My re­cord shows I can work with Demo­crats, Re­pub­lic­ans, any­body. The first thing I’ve got to do is fight for jobs,” said Neilson, whose oth­er pri­or­it­ies in­clude form­ing a seni­or cit­izen task force.

Kralle’s work with O’Bri­en has in­cluded out­reach ef­forts at the former state law­maker’s seni­or cit­izen and youth ex­pos and anti-crime for­ums. If he wins, he’ll re­open O’Bri­en’s old of­fice at 9811 Academy Road and bring back some of the former staff.

“I have to earn people’s vote,” he said. “Denny O’Bri­en’s en­dorse­ment is telling. He knows me. We need some­body to con­tin­ue where Denny O’Bri­en left off. My roots are here. I’ve lived here my en­tire life. I’ve al­ways been in­volved in the com­munity and will be, wheth­er I win or lose this elec­tion.” ••


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