Northeast Times

Local candidates look strong as election nears

Donna DeR­ose

Many Phil­adelphia Com­mon Pleas and Mu­ni­cip­al Court judges live in places such as Cen­ter City, Chest­nut Hill and An­dorra, but sev­er­al North­east can­did­ates look poised for vic­tory in Tues­day’s primary elec­tion.

Mean­while, a couple of area Traffic Court can­did­ates are prom­ising to clean up the trouble there.

Ju­di­cial can­did­ates are per­mit­ted to file in both ma­jor parties, but the win­ners of the Demo­crat­ic primary are all but as­sured of vic­tory in Novem­ber’s gen­er­al elec­tion.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

••

Among the can­did­ates in the 20-per­son race for Com­mon Pleas Court are North­east res­id­ents Anne Mar­ie Coyle, Joe Fernandes, Dan Mc­Caf­fery, John J. O’Con­nor Jr. and Frank Ben­nett. The top six fin­ish­ers ad­vance to the gen­er­al elec­tion.

Ben­nett, who lives in North­wood, is also in the race for Mu­ni­cip­al Court, along with in­cum­bent Judge Fran Shields, his former Glen­view Street neigh­bor.

Coyle, a Re­pub­lic­an from the Far North­east, used the luck of the Ir­ish to pull the top bal­lot po­s­i­tion. Demo­crat­ic Party boss Bob Brady wants her de­feated in fa­vor of the party-en­dorsed can­did­ates. However, she’s a ten­a­cious cam­paign­er and is ex­pec­ted to have uni­on sup­port on Elec­tion Day, mak­ing her a fa­vor­ite to win.

Fernandes, a Somer­ton res­id­ent and 1983 gradu­ate of Car­din­al Dougherty High School, has the party en­dorse­ment, uni­on sup­port and a re­com­mend­a­tion from the Phil­adelphia Bar As­so­ci­ation.

“Any­body who comes in front of me will al­ways get a fair tri­al and open mind. I’ll listen to the facts,” he said dur­ing a cam­paign ap­pear­ance last week at the Dacha Adult Day Care in Bustleton.

Mc­Caf­fery, of East Tor­res­dale, ran for dis­trict at­tor­ney in 2009 and ran briefly for at­tor­ney gen­er­al last year. He’s been re­com­men­ded by the bar as­so­ci­ation, en­dorsed by the party and has the back­ing of groups ran­ging from the black clergy to Liberty City Demo­crat­ic Club, a gay or­gan­iz­a­tion.

If elec­ted, he plans to over­see a form­al courtroom with de­cor­um.

A 1982 Fath­er Judge gradu­ate, his com­munity in­volve­ment in­cludes coach­ing Judge’s rugby team and sit­ting on the school’s board of ad­visers, serving as a mem­ber of the East Tor­res­dale Civic As­so­ci­ation and sit­ting on the board of the Self-Help drug treat­ment fa­cil­ity.

“I’m about as North­east as you come,” he said. “Hope­fully, the people in the North­east will turn out.”

Mc­Caf­fery was one of the at­tor­neys who rep­res­en­ted busi­nesses op­posed to a meth­adone clin­ic on State Road in Holmes­burg. Now that clin­ic op­er­at­ors have won a case in front of the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment, Ben­nett is hand­ling the ap­peal pro bono.

Ben­nett, who does not have party back­ing, is a former vice pres­id­ent of North­wood Civic As­so­ci­ation. He is lead­ing the ef­fort to re­open the North­wood Frank­ford Com­munity Y.

On the cam­paign trail, Ben­nett has been at­tend­ing ward fun­draisers, meet­ing com­mit­tee people and talk­ing about lit­ig­at­ing more than 2,000 cases.

“I’m an ex­per­i­enced at­tor­ney. I’ve tried more cases than any­body in Mu­ni­cip­al Court,” he said.

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Ben­nett and Shields are among eight can­did­ates seek­ing three spots on Mu­ni­cip­al Court.

Shields, of Lawndale, has party back­ing, the bar as­so­ci­ation re­com­mend­a­tion, a lot of uni­on sup­port and al­most 24 years as an at­tor­ney. He was ap­poin­ted to Mu­ni­cip­al Court by Gov. Tom Corbett, serving since last Ju­ly.

“It’s a really hard job, but a re­ward­ing job. I love every minute of it,” he said.

A Car­din­al Dougherty gradu­ate, he be­came a sprink­ler fit­ter, but con­tin­ued his edu­ca­tion, earn­ing an in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions de­gree from St. Joseph’s and his law de­gree from Temple. He lost a 2009 bid for Com­mon Pleas Court.

“You have to have life ex­per­i­ences to give you the com­mon sense to handle people and the prob­lems they bring be­fore you,” he said.

••

The loc­al can­did­ates in the Traffic Court race are Dav­id Mamikonyan, Ry­an Mul­vey, Jose Figueroa and Donna DeR­ose.

Twenty-five can­did­ates are run­ning, and the top three fin­ish­ers will be nom­in­ated.

In Janu­ary, the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice an­nounced a grand jury in­dict­ment of 12 people af­fil­i­ated with Traffic Court, in­clud­ing nine cur­rent or former judges. Three of those judges have already pleaded guilty.

The charges stemmed from fam­ily and friends of judges and em­ploy­ees be­ing ac­quit­ted for mov­ing vi­ol­a­tions at a much high­er rate than the gen­er­al pub­lic.

The state le­gis­lature is con­sid­er­ing elim­in­at­ing the court and trans­fer­ring its re­spons­ib­il­it­ies to Mu­ni­cip­al Court.

DeR­ose op­poses that move be­cause she be­lieves a back­log of cases will be cre­ated in Mu­ni­cip­al Court.

A Fox Chase res­id­ent, she is lis­ted next to last on the bal­lot, but has plenty go­ing for her. She has the party en­dorse­ment and back­ing by nu­mer­ous uni­ons, and has cam­paigned across the city.

“I feel very con­fid­ent about win­ning,” she said. “If I win, I will con­duct my­self with pro­fes­sion­al­ism, hon­esty and in­teg­rity.”

DeR­ose has been a paralegal and worked for 15 years as a state aud­it­or. In that time, she’s audited court­houses and de­veloped know­ledge of the mo­tor vehicle code. She hopes voters don’t choose the first three can­did­ates lis­ted on the bal­lot.

“I hope John Q. Pub­lic has done his home­work,” she said.

Mul­vey is a lifelong res­id­ent of Rhawn­hurst and chief of staff to state Rep. John Sabat­ina Jr. He is not backed by the party.

“I’m be­hold­en to no one,” he said. “I haven’t had a fun­draiser. I haven’t taken a dol­lar from any­one.”

Mul­vey’s back­ground in­cludes work­ing as an in­ter­view­er in Mu­ni­cip­al Court cases in­volving land­lord is­sues and small claims. He was also a per­son­al as­sist­ant to a Com­mon Pleas Court judge. He thinks he is a good eval­u­at­or of truth and char­ac­ter.

“People ex­pect a fair and im­par­tial judge. It’s that simple. That’s a pre­requis­ite,” he said.

••

In oth­er races, Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams is un­op­posed in the Demo­crat­ic primary, as is Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger Danny Al­varez.

City Con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz has two Demo­crat­ic primary op­pon­ents, Brett Man­del and Mark Zecca. Re­pub­lic­an Terry Tracy is un­op­posed.

A seat is open on Su­per­i­or Court. Re­pub­lic­an Vic Sta­bile is un­op­posed. The Demo­crat­ic primary fea­tures judges Joe Wa­ters of Phil­adelphia Mu­ni­cip­al Court and Jack McVay of Al­legheny County Com­mon Pleas Court. Wa­ters has the back­ing of the state party.

••

In an ef­fort to re­lieve con­fu­sion at polling places that have mul­tiple di­vi­sions, the city elec­tion com­mis­sion­ers will provide maps to as­sist cit­izens in de­term­in­ing the cor­rect table to cast the vote.

The maps can be down­loaded at phillyelec­tion.com

“The city com­mis­sion­ers of­fice is com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the vot­ing pro­cess for all Phil­adelphi­ans,” said Com­mis­sion­er Al Schmidt. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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