Local state legislative candidates are working to collect nominating petitions for the April 24 primary, and party leaders continue to look ahead to a redrawing of the maps by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the maps on Jan. 25 by a 4-3 vote and last Friday issued its formal opinion.
The maps seemed to set up Republicans for another decade of rule. Even House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, a Democrat, joined the GOP Senate and House leaders and retired Superior Court President Judge Stephen J. McEwen in approving them by a vote of 4-1.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa opposed the map, and he was among those appealing the plan on grounds that it unfairly split townships, boroughs and cities. Locally, there are interesting races brewing in the 169th, 172nd and 177th legislative districts.
The 169th had been represented by Republican Dennis O’Brien, who joined City Council on Jan. 2. The rejected map moved the seat to a fast-growing part of York County. Now, that seat could remain in Philadelphia, if only for a short time. On the Democratic side, likely candidates are Shawn Dillon, a ward leader and veteran of the auditor general’s office, and Ed Neilson, director of government relations for Chartwell Law Offices.
A Republican primary is set between teacher John McCann and Dave Kralle, who worked for O’Brien in the House and Council.
Many GOP leaders wanted Anne Marie Coyle to run. A former assistant district attorney, she’s twice run for judge. She’s eyeing a run for Common Pleas Court next year.
“I want to be a judge. It’s always been my dream, and I don’t want to give up on it,” she said.
Candidates need to collect 300 nominating petitions by the Feb. 16 deadline, and committee people in the 57th and 66th wards are among those gathering them for Kralle.
“It’s great news,” he said of party support. “My focus right now has to be trying to get on the ballot.”
On the campaign trail, Kralle will stress constituent service.
“I’d keep the office Denny had,” he said, adding that he’d probably bring along some of the former staffers who’ve joined O’Brien’s City Hall office.
McCann, an eighth-grade civics teacher in Princeton, N.J. and father of a 2-year-old boy, is interacting with voters as he circulates petitions. He’d like to garner 600 signatures to deter a challenge to his petitions.
Education is a key issue, and McCann points to his 11 years as a teacher. He has a law degree and believes that will assist him in drafting and voting on legislation.
McCann thinks voters will benefit with a contested primary.
“The more the merrier, fighting for Northeast Philadelphia,” he said.
In the 172nd, longtime Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce president Al Taubenberger is the endorsed Republican candidate.
Three individuals, all from Fox Chase, sought the right to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Kevin Boyle, also of Fox Chase, in a district that is based largely in Mayfair.
A GOP ward leader caucus met on the evening of Feb. 2 at SmokeEaters Pub. Joe Gaynor, who lost in the 2010 primary, dropped out before the interviews, leaving Taubenberger and Joe McGarrity, who was campaign manager for City Councilman Brian O’Neill’s successful re-election campaign last year. In the end, ward leaders Chris Vogler and Bob Barrilli and representatives of the 58th and 64th wards chose Taubenberger. Party boss Mike Meehan was also in attendance.
“I’m very honored to have the party’s endorsement,” said Taubenberger, who has run twice for Congress and once each for mayor and Council at-large.
“Al Taubenberger loves to run for office,” Boyle said.
McGarrity, a 63rd Ward committeeman, has indicated that he will stay in the race.
“I’m circulating petitions,” he said.
Boyle is confident, noting that Democrats Barack Obama and Rob McCord in 2008 and Joe Sestak in 2010 narrowly won the divisions in the 172nd.
“It’s a lean-Democratic district,” he said.
The 177th is a strong Democratic district on paper, but Republican Rep. John Taylor has been untouchable since winning the seat in 1984.
This year, two Democrats — Will Dunbar and Richie Antipuna — are looking to challenge him.
In the 170th district, Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle could face a challenge from Realtor George Weiss.
Statewide, Democrats are hoping that the 2012 elections are held using the current lines created in 2001. Republicans will try to find a way to pass new maps in time for this year’s elections.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who had been backing Dan McCaffery before his abrupt withdrawal from the race, is now supporting Parkwood native Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary for state attorney general.
“Patrick Murphy is our guy. He grew up in a Northeast Philly rowhouse and is the son of a twenty-two-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department,” said Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee.
Mayor Michael Nutter, who had been neutral, endorsed Murphy upon McCaffery’s departure from the race.
Murphy, a former congressman, faces former Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane in the primary. McCaffery, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, dropped out two weeks ago, citing an inability to compete with the wealthy Kane and the potent fund-raising of Murphy.
The city accounts for about 17 percent of the total statewide vote during Democratic primaries.
Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed is the Republican candidate. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org