Once upon a time, Northeast Philadelphia was home not only to lots of cops and firefighters, but a good number of Republican officeholders, too. Ah, the good old days.
In the wake of last week’s huge election, two things are perfectly clear: One is that President Obama proved to be very popular in the Northeast, capturing 68 percent of the Northeast wards en route to winning the entire city with 85 percent of the vote.
The other lesson from Election Day is that something is wrong with whatever is left of the Philadelphia Republican Party. Aside from three key positions guaranteed to the Republicans by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter — two at-large seats on City Council and a lone seat on the city Election Commission — Far Northeast Councilman Brian O’Neill and lower Northeast state Rep. John Taylor are the Republican Party’s only bright spots. Both men are capable public servants, but why on earth are they two of just a handful of Republicans holding high office in the city?
Not too long ago, Northeast Philadelphia had a healthy chunk of Republicans joining Rep. Taylor in Harrisburg — state Sen. Hank Salvatore and state Reps. George Kenney, John Perzel, Chris Wogan and Dennis O’Brien (who now sits in one of the guaranteed at-large Council seats). Their electoral success reflected a tendency of Northeast voters to split their tickets every election day. That healthy streak of independence was great for democracy.
There are plenty of issues that contrast Republicans and Democrats, but the city’s Republican leaders can’t seem to capitalize on them. Perhaps the keys to the party success will flow with some new blood.
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