City Controller Alan Butkovitz was confident heading into the May 21 Democratic primary, but did not expect a blowout victory.
Butkovitz, though, rolled to a smashing win.
The incumbent captured 61 percent of the vote, easily outdistancing runner-up Brett Mandel, who received 31 percent. Attorney Mark Zecca trailed with 8 percent.
Four years ago, there was more drama. Butkovitz won a three-way race with just 42 percent of the vote. John Braxton took 30 percent, and Mandel had 28 percent.
“The last time, I beat him by 14 percent. I doubled the margin. Thirty points is mind blowing,” Butkovitz said.
In the general election, Butkovitz will face Republican Terry Tracy, a businessman from Fitler Square.
Mandel, former director of financial and policy analysis under Controller Jonathan Saidel, emailed supporters to say that election night was frustrating.
“Our voters did not vote,” he said, noting that about 690,000 Philadelphians voted for president last September and only 63,000 or so voted for controller.
Mandel, who gathered with supporters at the Sidecar Bar at 22nd and Christian streets in South Philadelphia, ran as a “budget bulldog,” promising to provide more information about city spending. He now plans to spend more time with his family and friends, play baseball and attend Phillies games. He is hoping for increased civic engagement across Philadelphia.
“When we turn around and regard the sorry state of so much in this could-be-great city, we have to acknowledge that when we do not participate in the races that choose our leaders, we leave it up to others to choose them,” he said. “Let’s together aspire to do so much better in the future.”
Butkovitz celebrated his victory at The Palm restaurant in Center City. A Castor Gardens resident, he was a state representative for 15 years before being elected controller in 2005.
In looking at his landslide victory, Butkovitz thinks he cut into Mandel’s support among progressives.
The incumbent believes voters rewarded him for investigations of mismanagement at the sheriff’s office, some charter schools and the School District of Philadelphia, along with his recommendations for the city to save money, collect outstanding taxes and run more efficiently.
“We have a substantial record,” he said. “My whole reputation was made fighting the powers that be at the school district.”
Butkovitz has long been a critic of the city’s Actual Value Initiative, which calculates property taxes based on what a home or business would sell for at the current time. The city previously used a formula, and some homeowners worry that their taxes will rise under the new system.
“AVI was a huge issue,” Butkovitz said.
In other city races, District Attorney Seth Williams, a Democrat, was unopposed in the primary. So was Republican challenger Danny Alvarez, a lawyer from Somerton.
In the race for three seats on Municipal Court, the Democratic winners were Martin Coleman, Henry Lewandowski and Fran Shields, all of whom were endorsed by the party. They are guaranteed to be elected in November because there were no Republican candidates, Shields, of Lawndale, has served on Municipal Court since last July, when he was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett. Among those attending his victory party at the sprinkler fitters union hall in the Far Northeast were state Reps. Ed Neilson and Brendan Boyle and local union bosses Pat Eiding and Wayne Miller.
“I’m thrilled. I love the job. It’s been a great experience,” Shields said.
The six Democratic nominees for Common Pleas Court seats are Timika Lane; Joe Fernandes, of Somerton; Anne Marie Coyle, of the Far Northeast; Dan McCaffery, of East Torresdale; Giovanni Campbell; and Sierra Thomas Street.
Coyle is a Republican who did not have the Democratic endorsement, but did have the No. 1 ballot spot. She will also be on the GOP ticket, virtually assuring that she’ll be the top vote-getter in the general election.
Thomas Street also won without the endorsement. The two endorsed candidates to lose were Leon King and Dawn Tancredi, who finished 550 votes behind Street. Tancredi is the lawyer for residents opposed to a planned methadone clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street.
The three endorsed Democrats easily won the primary for Traffic Court. They are Omar Sabir, Fox Chase resident Donna DeRose and Marnie Aument-Loughrey.
The state legislature is considering abolishing the troubled court. It’s possible those candidates will never serve as judges if the state passes a bill replacing the current system with hearing examiners.
Statewide, in the Democratic primary for Superior Court, Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Jack McVay defeated Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Joe Waters, 55 percent to 45 percent. Waters had the party endorsement, but was hurt by the small turnout in Philadelphia and a history of Democrats in central and western Pennsylvania voting against Philadelphians.
McVay will take on Republican Vic Stabile, a Harrisburg lawyer, who was unopposed. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org