Democrats have dominated presidential races in Northeast Philadelphia since 1992, and the trend grew even bigger this year.
In the 14 wards that make up the Northeast, a Republican hasn’t won a local ward since George H.W. Bush did in 1988.
In 2008, President Barack Obama surprised some by sweeping the Northeast, racking up 64 percent of the vote in his race against John McCain. Turnout was down this year in the race between Obama and Mitt Romney, but Obama’s winning percentage was up to 68 percent.
The race this year between the presidential contenders was closer in Pennsylvania and nationally than it was four years ago, but not in Northeast Philly.
State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) said some voters like to stick with the incumbent, even when things aren’t going well. He also pointed to Obama’s support among organized labor and what he saw as Democratic scare tactics on Medicare and Social Security.
Republicans have to get to work winning over voters, according to Taylor.
“We have to reach out. We’re a sales force. We have to make sure what we’re selling, they’re buying,” he said. “This time around, that was not the case.”
Marc Collazzo, Taylor’s chief of staff and Republican leader of the 58th Ward, was pleased when he saw the first returns. His polling place is at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, at 608 Welsh Road. Four divisions vote there, and Obama won by just a narrow margin.
In the end, Romney won more than 45 percent of the vote in the 58th Ward. That’s better than he did in most of the wards, but not good enough, in Collazzo’s view.
“It’s a shame we grade on a curve now,” he said.
Collazzo, whose ward received help from Russian-speaking poll workers recruited by attorney Marina Kats, said infighting among the two factions of the Philadelphia GOP didn’t help. He said Republicans must work “triply” as hard in the future.
“The Northeast is blue-collar union folk who historically vote Democrat. That’s how they’re told and pushed,” he said. “Those are the hurdles that we face and have to overcome. We have to make our umbrella bigger.”
City Controller Alan Butkovitz, Democratic leader of the 54th Ward, said local voters started the pattern of voting for a Democratic presidential candidate with Bill Clinton in 1992.
By 2000, local Republicans became victims of straight-party voting, with state Sen. Hank Salvatore losing his seat and Taylor and then-state Reps. George Kenney and John Perzel winning narrowly.
“The dam broke,” Butkovitz said.
Butkovitz said Medicare and pocketbook issues are tops on the minds of local voters.
“People in the Northeast don’t think the Republican Party represents their interest,” he said. “The constituency is in a habit of voting Democratic at this point.”
State Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th dist.) totaled 71.6 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Mike Tomlinson. The well-funded incumbent declared victory at Randi’s Restaurant and Bar.
“It’s heartening,” he said. “I know Mike Tomlinson worked hard. In a lot of ways, that’s why it is a heartening sign. I appreciate the confidence the people of Northeast Philadelphia have in me.”
Taylor took 56.9 percent of the vote in turning back Democrat William Dunbar.
Much of the district is in transition, and Taylor utilized more than 40 Spanish-speaking volunteers.
“They made a difference,” he said.
Still, the bulk of the district went for President Barack Obama, pushing the straight Democratic button.
“It’s tough swimming up current,” Taylor said. “I always have to worry about the straight pulls.”
State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-172nd dist.) piled up 68 percent of the vote to beat Republican Al Taubenberger. He believes voters rewarded him for what he called a bipartisan agenda to make neighborhoods strong and safe.
In an election night party at Benny the Bum’s, he thanked his family, office staff, campaign volunteers, unions, some loyal ward leaders and committee people.
“I look forward to being your ward leader in two years,” he said.
Boyle plans to challenge Bernice Hill, Democratic leader of the 63rd Ward, in the spring of 2014. Hill and fellow ward leaders John Sabatina and Pat Parkinson supported challenger Dan Collins in the primary. The lawmaker and those ward leaders remain foes.
“I’m going to win if I run,” he said of the 63rd Ward race.
• • •
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13th dist.) took 69 percent of the vote against Republican Joe Rooney. She posted her biggest margins in the new areas of her district.
The incumbent won 91 percent in the Frankford-based 23rd Ward and 95 percent in the 42nd and 61st wards in Olney and Feltonville. She and other Democrats benefited from the straight-party voting of Obama supporters.
Schwartz said her priorities in her fifth term will include tax policy and Medicare — cutting costs while protecting benefits. She added that she also will continue to promote investment in biotechnology, which she thinks will generate jobs.
Republicans maintained control of the U.S. House, while Democrats kept their majority in the Senate. Schwartz, who celebrated her victory at the Warwick Hotel in Center City, hopes the partisan gridlock of the last two years in Congress can be resolved.
“I’ve worked the past two years to find Republican partners and will continue to do that,” she said. “I’m hoping the Republican leadership will be willing to work with President Obama.”
• • •
Obama crushed Romney in the five divisions that vote at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, at Rising Sun and Cheltenham avenues in Lawndale/Crescentville.
The voting took place in the school cafeteria, and one wall features a large mural of Obama, complete with the words “hope” and “change,” a quote and his campaign logo.
Republicans complained, and GOP attorney Linda A. Kerns filed a court motion. Common Pleas Court Judge John Milton Younge Jr. ordered that the judge of elections in the 18th division cover the mural in its entirety so that the mural could not be seen.
The president won those five divisions by a combined vote of 1,755 to 140.
The divisions are filled largely with minority and Democratic voters. The mural could have featured Romney, running mate Paul Ryan and their families, and the outcome probably wouldn’t have been different.
• • •
The students at Blessed Trinity Regional Catholic School participated in a mock presidential election on Nov. 5.
The youngsters in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade chose Obama over Romney by a count of 402-200.
Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, whose names appeared on the Pennsylvania ballot, were not included in this election.
Librarian Susan McCall coordinated the mock election.
Until this year, Blessed Trinity was known as St. Timothy. The new name is the result of a merger of St. Tim’s and Pope John Paul II, in Bridesburg. The merged school is located at Levick and Hawthorne streets.
The students learned about the election from the start of the school year. Teachers outlined the history and the process of presidential elections. Music classes sung patriotic tunes.
The children in the upper grades will analyze the vote totals and statistics for math class.
Leading up to the voting, the sixth-grade art classes designed posters, many featuring donkeys and elephants, the mascots of the Democratic and Republican parties.
The incumbent Democrat prevailed thanks to posters that read, “Vote Obama all the way” and “Vote for Obama. Not Mitt Romney,” with a slash across a picture of an elephant.
The Republican challenger lost despite posters of support that read, “Vote for Mitt. He cares,” “Romney is the better choice” and “Romney for 45th President.”
The voters cast their ballots behind the privacy of a curtain. They used crayons — one color for Obama and another for Romney — to mark a paper ballot. Each voter received a miniature American flag after taking part in the election.
Blessed Trinity was closed on Election Day because it is the home polling place for the 55th Ward, 9th and 13th divisions. ••
Presidential vote in local wards
Ward Romney Obama
23 840 7,889
35 1,648 10,268
41 1,821 5,642
53 1,475 6,608
54 819 5,192
55 3,326 6,489
56 4,836 9,032
57 4,241 6,631
58 8,399 10,110
62 1,238 8,080
63 4,865 5.704
64 2,635 3,909
65 2,941 5,832
66 8,006 10,305
NE Total 47,090 101,691
Phila. Total 91,880 558,465
Note: Libertarian Gary Johnson received 822 votes in the Northeast. The Green Party’s Jill Stein received 441. There were 117 write-in votes.
UNOFFICIAL ELECTION RETURNS
Barack Obama 2,865,690
Mitt Romney 2,581,357
Gary Johnson 48,150
Jill Stein 20,463
Bob Casey Jr. 2,900,728
Tom Smith 2,417,779
Rayburn Smith 93,095
Kathleen Kane 3,006,580
David Freed 2,228,564
Marakay Rogers 123,823
Eugene DePasquale 2,624,241
John Maher 2,455,586
Betsy Summers 202,418
Rob McCord 2,763,280
Diana Irey Vaughan 2,316,561
Patricia Fryman 182,274
1st Congressional District
Bob Brady 222,408
John Featherman 39,128
13th Congressional District
Allyson Schwartz 203,673
Joe Rooney 91,994
3rd Senatorial District
Shirley Kitchen- unopposed
5th Senatorial District
Mike Stack 62,479
Mike Tomlinson 24,774
152nd Legislative District
Tom Murt 18,950
Ronald Kolla 10,807
154th Legislative District
Steve McCarter 25,294
Mark Sirinides 8,143
169th Legislative District
Ed Neilson 15,068
Dave Kralle 7,957
170th Legislative District
Brendan Boyle- unopposed
172nd Legislative District
Kevin Boyle 16,226
Al Taubenberger 7,642
173rd Legislative District
Mike McGeehan- unopposed
174th Legislative District
John Sabatina Jr.- unopposed
177th Legislative District
John Taylor 11,801
William Dunbar 8,774
179th Legislative District
James Clay- unopposed
202nd Legislative District
Mark Cohen- unopposed
203rd Legislative DistrictDwight Evans- unopposedEndFragment EndFragment
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org