One of the six candidates in the May 17 Democratic primary election for the First Council District decided this week to drop out of the race while a new candidate is preparing to enter it. Mike Boyle, leader of Center City's 5th Ward, just told us he is withdrawing. Mark Squilla, president of the Whitman Council in South Philly, just told us he will challenge incumbent Councilman Frank DiCicco.
Boyle said a lack of enthusiasm among voters and campaign contributors made him decide to focus instead on his busy law practice and ward duties. He predicts that he would have competed for the same Center City progressive voters as two other candidates, former Mayor Street staffer Joe Grace and former Service Employees International Union leader Jeff Hornstein. Boyle said he plans to personally back Hornstein but it is too early to say if his ward will follow that lead.
Squilla spoke quite favorably about DiCicco, with one major exception: The controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Like other candidates, Squilla is critical of DiCicco because he can, if re-elected, collect a $424,646 DROP payment on Dec. 30, retire for one day, and return to City Council in January 2012. DiCicco has attempted to soothe DROP critics by pledging to donate back to the city his Council salary if re-elected.
"I think it hurts," Squilla said of the issue. "It puts a little bit of a black eye on things he has done as a positive in his district.."
Still, Squilla says a crowded field may help DiCicco survive the election. DiCicco is also being challenged by attorney Vern Anastasio and retired teacher Karen Brown, both Democratic Committee members.