GOP opens nomination process tonight: All Philadelphians invited

Is expected that Matthew Wolfe, left, the 27th Ward GOP leader since 1979, will be nominated as the party candidate for the City Council seat vacated by new School Reform Commission chairman Bill Green. At right is fellow Republican Joseph McColgan.

An amazing first in Philadelphia politics will be occurring tonight at the United Republican Club in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.

The Republican City Committee has decided to open up its citywide ward meeting to all Philadelphians, Chairman John Taylor told me via telephone this afternoon. The meeting will primarily address the selection of a candidate for the City Council At-Large seat made available by Democratic Councilman Bill Green's resignation. Green was confirmed last month as Gov. Tom Corbett’s appointee to become the chairman of the School Reform Commission.

While the floor will be open to nominations, it’s widely expected that West Philadelphia ward leader Matthew Wolfe will be nominated as the GOP’s special election candidate.

In a private message sent to me this afternoon that Wolfe gave me permission to publish, Wolfe said, “The Republican City Committee meeting tonight is open to the public, including press. Since John Taylor became the Chairman, he has run a much more open organization, frankly discussing both our strengths and weaknesses. We are looking to engage Republicans in the process and use an energized party to challenge the Democrats who have run this city into poverty for several generations. A strong Republican Party is essential to a strong city.”

Northeast Philly state Rep. Ed Neilson was selected by the Democratic City Committee last week to be the party’s nominee.

Independents, non-partisans and third-party candidates may also file for the vacated seat. But unlike the two major parties’ candidates, they will have to produce at least 1,785 valid signatures of registered voters on their nomination papers. Neither Neilson nor the Republican Party’s nominee will have to produce any signatures or nomination petitions. Complete instructions for running outside the major party route can be obtained here, courtesy of City Council President Darrell Clarke.

Wolfe, who formally announced his interest in the City Council seat last Thursday, made it very clear to me that he intended to let Philadelphians know that the local GOP is all about transparency. “Compare and contrast to the Democrats,” he told me, adding, “The last thing that they want is to open their machine up to public inspection. They operate like an oligarchy, benefiting only a small group. Their secret meeting to nominate a candidate is another example. Best for the city? Nah. Best for the Machine? Of course.”

The special election will be held on May 20th – the same day as the primary election. The winner will immediately be seated on Council to serve Green’s remaining term. That seat – as well as all City Council slots – will be up for grabs in next year’s election.