As election nears, Butkovitz’s confidence grows

City con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz goes door to door on the 7700 block of Richard St. for his reelec­tion cam­paign. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

City Con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz is pre­dict­ing the “low­est turnout in his­tory” when the elec­tion polls open on May 21.

Butkovitz, a Demo­crat, is seek­ing a third four-year term. He’s op­posed in the primary by Brett Man­del and Mark Zecca. Terry Tracy is un­op­posed on the Re­pub­lic­an side.

The in­cum­bent has the near-un­an­im­ous sup­port of ward lead­ers, and their com­mit­tee people will likely be hand­ing out sample bal­lots with his name on them. He also ex­pects to do well among voters 55 and older.

“We have the strongest sup­port among the most fre­quent voters,” he said.

Butkovitz, 61, is a law­yer who served as a state rep­res­ent­at­ive from 1991 to 2005, when he was elec­ted con­trol­ler.

The con­trol­ler is a res­id­ent of Un­ruh Av­en­ue in Castor Gar­dens, and is Demo­crat­ic lead­er of the 54th Ward. He gradu­ated from Temple Uni­versity and its law school. He and his wife, Theresa, have two adult chil­dren, Rachel and Ed­die, both of whom are law­yers, and an in­fant grand­son, Ben­jamin Gryphon.

Four years ago, Butkovitz took 42 per­cent of the vote to beat John Brax­ton and Man­del, who re­ceived 30 per­cent and 28 per­cent, re­spect­ively.

In that race, Butkovitz swept the 14 North­east wards 58 per­cent to 27 per­cent over Man­del, a Rhawn­hurst nat­ive. An Over­brook High School gradu­ate, Butkovitz has lived in the North­east for 36 years.

“The North­east is my biggest base of sup­port. The vote four years ago hit it out of the park for me,” he said.

The in­cum­bent also did well in South Phil­adelphia, Roxbor­ough and the river wards, but not so well in Cen­ter City and Uni­versity City.

While Brax­ton won the black vote, Butkovitz took about one-third and is hop­ing for a lot big­ger per­cent­age this time.

“We are very, very strong in the black com­munity,” he said.

In this race, Butkovitz and Man­del have raised sim­il­ar amounts of money, with Zecca trail­ing.

Only 80,000 or so Demo­crats are ex­pec­ted to come to the polls, and Butkovitz de­clined to re­veal his strategy for reach­ing those likely voters.

North­east voters will get a chance to see the can­did­ates on May 16, when the Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce hosts a for­um at Wes­ley En­hanced Liv­ing-Pennypack.

Butkovitz de­scribes him­self as an “in­de­pend­ent watch­dog” who has been “in the trenches” on key city is­sues. He dis­misses his two primary op­pon­ents.

“Neither one of them is pre­pared for the of­fice,” he said.

Butkovitz saves his biggest cri­ti­cism for Man­del, la­beling him a “right-wing ideo­logue” for his fo­cus on busi­ness-tax re­duc­tions, liken­ing it to a “Re­aganom­ic policy.”

Man­del is “tone deaf” on the city’s new Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive, said Butkovitz, who op­poses AVI be­cause he be­lieves it will hurt the middle class by res­ult­ing in high­er prop­erty taxes.

The con­trol­ler be­lieves there is a very large er­ror rate in the AVI data, and hopes the state le­gis­lature and City Coun­cil can some­how find a way to halt im­ple­ment­a­tion.

“We are the only people to chal­lenge the as­sump­tions for this big prop­erty as­sess­ment,” he said.

On oth­er is­sues, Butkovitz said his of­fice’s in­vest­ig­a­tion of fin­an­cial ir­reg­u­lar­it­ies and oth­er prob­lems at sev­er­al charter schools has led to a fed­er­al in­dict­ment of ad­min­is­trat­ors of one of the schools.

The con­trol­ler has long cri­ti­cized the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia’s man­age­ment. He has urged the city to op­er­ate more ef­fi­ciently and real­ize sav­ings by do­ing everything from im­prov­ing tax col­lec­tions to selling the health cen­ter build­ing at Broad and Lom­bard streets and mov­ing to a loc­a­tion where the real es­tate mar­ket is much cheap­er.

Butkovitz said an audit of the sher­iff’s of­fice showed such mis­man­age­ment in the real es­tate di­vi­sion that he took a drastic step.

“We re­ferred it to the U.S. At­tor­ney,” he said.

Man­del and Zecca are cam­paign­ing on a pledge to in­vest­ig­ate every city agency every year. Butkovitz in­sists his of­fice has been ag­gress­ive and cre­at­ive in com­plet­ing thor­ough per­form­ance audits.

“I have to be a man­ager with a real budget, and the pri­or­ity is to get the biggest bang for the buck,” he said.

If Butkovitz is re-elec­ted, he will be in the mix for the 2015 may­or­al race. He’d have to resign as con­trol­ler to enter the race.

“It’s so spec­u­lat­ive,” he said of a po­ten­tial run. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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