Philly Voters Deserve Open and Competitive Elections for Congress and Democratic Party Chair in 2018

bob_brady_facepalm.jpg(We are all this boy, in Bob Brady's Democratic Party | Image: WHYY)

Over the past year, there's been an amazing small-d democratic resurgence building in Philly politics. Our usually sleepy District Attorney and Controller election cycle saw huge voter turnout due to two exciting primaries, and grassroots groups are on the march to revive the local Democratic Party's creaky get-out-the-vote apparatus. But not everybody is getting in the democratic spirit.

Claudia Vargas talks to some local Democratic operatives who believe 1st District Rep. Bob Brady isn't really planning to run for reelection to Congress and is instead planning a sneaky move to smuggle in a hand-picked successor rather than letting the voters decide who should replace him through an open and competitive primary. 

"But some who have been around Philadelphia politics for a while don’t buy it. They believe that Brady will pretend to run and pull out when the primary ballot is set, or even after the vote.

If Brady were to run, win the primary, and then drop out before the general election, Philadelphia ward leaders and Delaware County precinct leaders within the district would get to pick the Democratic nominee. As city party chairman, Brady has sway over the leaders of the 69 Democratic wards, and thus could have a role in hand-picking his successor.

One political operative said Lazer replacing Brady would be “a status quo bait and switch.” Another said that if Lazer does run, it probably would be with Brady’s blessing."

Since at least August 2016, there have been rumors that Brady will also step down from City Committee at some point and attempt to pass the party Chairmanship to former Controller Jonathan Saidel. More recent rumors in the past month have also centered on Saidel as Brady's chosen replacement in the Congressional race.

Specifically, the rumor is that Team Brady (or whatever is left of it) will spend the first two weeks of the three-week petition period circulating Bob Brady petitions, and the last week circulating Jonathan Saidel petitions, when it'll be too late for additional challengers to mount a campaign for what will be an open seat. 

Any attempt to fill the Congressional seat through any means other than an open and competitive election would be a non-starter, and would be breathtakingly tone-deaf to the current political moment we are in.

In the Congressional race, there is already one announced challenger, Nina Ahmad, with more candidates expected to get in the race, including Omar Woodard, Michelle Lawrence, Richie Lazer (the subject of Vargas's article), and Lindy Li, who briefly ran for Congress in the 7th District. If Brady is indeed planning to drop out, voters deserve a robust and competitive race to replace him, just like we had for the District Attorney and Controller primaries in 2017.

Philadelphia is also gearing up for some competitive ward elections, where many grassroots groups are working with their members to contest committeeperson elections in 2018. It's not yet clear whether all current ward leaders will be returning to the table to vote for the next Chair of Democratic City Committee, and it would be unfair to appoint a new Chair before we learn the outcome of the elections that are at least nominally supposed to determine who the Chair will be. 

There are many different perspectives out there on what direction the Democratic Party should take after losing the 2016 election, but virtually everyone can agree that closed-door coronations and backroom deals among party elites are not the way to strength a political party, especially if the aim is to harness the unprecedented grassroots energy that's emerged in the wake of the Presidential election.

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  • anonymous
    commented 2018-01-25 00:02:32 -0500
    Too much city-owned land? Not at all. Just start leasing it out at market. Singapore owns 70% of its land base, and raises enormous revenue from leasing it out, including for housing. Any Philadelphian who has been to Singapore can tell you it is a model worth learning from: safe, clean, prosperous, and remarkably free of poverty and inequality. Everything Philly is not.
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