Opportunity knocks

State Rep­res­ent­at­ive Kev­in Boyle goes door to door for the 2012 elec­tion on Fri­day af­ter­noon. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


When Kev­in Boyle chal­lenged John Perzel two years ago, there was only one is­sue in the race — Perzel’s pending crim­in­al charges.

Perzel, a Re­pub­lic­an, served the 172nd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict for 32 years, in­clud­ing a stint as speak­er from 2003-06. He beat back a few tough chal­lenges but oth­er­wise cruised to re-elec­tion every two years.

By 2010, he was fa­cing charges that he used pub­lic funds for elec­tion pur­poses. The Re­pub­lic­an elec­tion wave was not enough to save him. Boyle, a Demo­crat who formerly served as an aide to City Coun­cil­man Bill Green­lee, took 53.7 per­cent of the vote.

Perzel ul­ti­mately pleaded guilty and was sen­tenced to two and a half to five years in pris­on.

Boyle, mean­while, has spent his two years in of­fice sup­port­ing le­gis­la­tion that will crack down on neg­li­gent prop­erty own­ers and help keep private ele­ment­ary and high schools vi­able. He be­lieves he de­serves an­oth­er two years.

“I’m run­ning on my re­cord,” he said.

Al Tauben­ber­ger is the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate. He’s the long­time pres­id­ent of the Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Tauben­ber­ger last Novem­ber lost a tight race for an at-large City Coun­cil seat. He fin­ished 203 votes be­hind Dav­id Oh after lead­ing most of the night.

Based on that strong show­ing, Tauben­ber­ger joined the le­gis­lat­ive race to re­turn the 172nd dis­trict to Re­pub­lic­an con­trol.

Be­sides his work at the Cham­ber, Tauben­ber­ger serves as pres­id­ent of the Burholme Com­munity Town Watch and Civic As­so­ci­ation.

“It’s an old-style neigh­bor­hood race. The race will come down to who has done the most for the com­munity,” he said.

Boyle, 32, and Tauben­ber­ger, 59, both live in Fox Chase. The in­cum­bent lives on Burholme Av­en­ue, while the chal­lenger resides on Lo­ney Street.

So far, it’s been a ground game, with few mail­ings and no cable tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials.

“We have a com­mer­cial ready to go,” Boyle said.

A state House dis­trict is small enough to al­low can­did­ates to knock on most or all of the doors with­in the bound­ar­ies. There are plenty of rowhomes, es­pe­cially in the May­fair and Holmes­burg por­tions of the dis­trict, mak­ing the job easi­er.

Boyle, whose wife, Caitlyn, is a high school Eng­lish teach­er, is a vet­er­an of door-to-door cam­paign­ing. He helped his older broth­er Brendan in his un­suc­cess­ful chal­lenges to Rep. George Ken­ney in 2004 and ‘06 and his vic­tori­ous cam­paign in 2008 after Ken­ney de­clined to seek an­oth­er term in the 170th dis­trict.

In 2010, the young­er Boyle went door to door in win­ning a three-way primary and the race against Perzel. He also had to turn back a primary chal­lenge in April.

“Primary chal­lengers are mixed bless­ings,” he said.

While he was forced to spend some money in the spring, Boyle was able to get to about 7,500 likely Demo­crat­ic primary voters’ doors from Janu­ary through April and has been banging on the doors of re­gistered voters since the second week of Ju­ly.

Tauben­ber­ger is in his fifth cam­paign, but the first in which go­ing door to door is para­mount. Be­sides last year’s Coun­cil race, he ran for Con­gress in 2002 and ’04 and may­or in ’07.

Like Boyle, Tauben­ber­ger is meet­ing re­gistered voters face to face, reas­on­ing that there will be high voter turnout in a pres­id­en­tial year.

“If you’re re­gistered, I’m knock­ing at your door,” he said.

The dis­trict will change once the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court ap­proves new le­gis­lat­ive maps. The 172nd dis­trict would, un­der the map pending be­fore the court, gain Rockledge, por­tions of Burholme and Castor Gar­dens and more of Fox Chase while shed­ding Ta­cony and por­tions of May­fair and Holmes­burg.

Boyle’s over­all fo­cus is mak­ing the North­east a good place to live and work. He’s been vo­cal about his op­pos­i­tion to a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street and hopes the dir­ect­ors de­cide against open­ing. The mat­ter is in the courts.

“The com­munity is one-hun­dred and ten per­cent op­posed to them,” Boyle said.

Tauben­ber­ger, a lifelong North­east res­id­ent who is mar­ried with four chil­dren and four grand­chil­dren, wants to use the of­fice to pro­tect Phil­adelphi­ans from what he sees as the short­com­ings of city gov­ern­ment.

At doors, he tells res­id­ents that it’s un­fair for the city to raise prop­erty taxes and close fire sta­tions. He op­poses the city’s ap­peal of the bind­ing ar­bit­ra­tion award for the fire­fight­ers uni­on and con­tends that the po­lice de­part­ment is un­der­staffed.

Tauben­ber­ger does like Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on’s Bad Neigh­bor Ini­ti­at­ive to ad­dress de­teri­or­at­ing prop­er­ties. He thinks single-fam­ily prop­er­ties are best for a neigh­bor­hood, and the civic as­so­ci­ation he leads has taken a firm stand against du­plex con­ver­sions.

Tauben­ber­ger’s pri­or­ity is jobs, and May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter ap­poin­ted him to the Phil­adelphia Jobs Com­mis­sion.

But the way Tauben­ber­ger sees it, if the city lowered taxes on people and busi­nesses, jobs would in­crease and there would be no need for a com­mis­sion.

The can­did­ates dif­fer sharply on the state’s new voter photo iden­ti­fic­a­tion law, which will be delayed un­til next year fol­low­ing a judge’s rul­ing on Tues­day.

Boyle voted against the bill and, in a prin­ted mes­sage to con­stitu­ents, called it an “out­rageous as­sault on our most fun­da­ment­al Amer­ic­an right” and a “new scheme to sup­press our vote.”

Tauben­ber­ger be­lieves the law will have little im­pact in the 172nd when it is ul­ti­mately im­ple­men­ted.

“I think most people in the dis­trict are re­gistered and have ID,” he said.

So, who is go­ing to win the race?

Four years ago, when Demo­crat Barack Obama car­ried the dis­trict over Re­pub­lic­an John Mc­Cain 52 to 47 per­cent, it was a strong year for Demo­crats.

Two years ago, Boyle was a rare Demo­crat­ic high­light on a big night for Re­pub­lic­ans, who gained 13 state House seats. He ques­tions wheth­er state Re­pub­lic­ans, who have to pro­tect a num­ber of vul­ner­able fresh­men, will come to Tauben­ber­ger’s aid.

Boyle liked the res­ults of a re­cent in­tern­al poll.

“We have a very healthy lead, well over twenty points, about twenty-five,” he said.

Tauben­ber­ger has also taken a poll, which showed a much closer con­test.

“The dis­trict is very con­ser­vat­ive, and I have high name ID for someone who is not elec­ted to pub­lic of­fice,” he said. “It’s a very close, com­pet­it­ive race.” ••


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