City election official slams process for picking special election candidates

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer does not like the way the Democratic Party will select a candidate for an at-large City Council seat.

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, part of a three-member panel that oversees elections in Philadelphia, has a problem with the way her political party will select a candidate tomorrow for a vacant City Council at-large seat.

Singer, in an email Sunday to about 4,000 people on her campaign list, questioned the "accountability" and "transparency" of the process. Singer said in other Pennsylvania counties a nominee for a special election would be voted on by Democratic committee members, who are elected by voters.  Not so in Philadelphia, where the 69 Democratic ward leaders will make the pick in a noon-time private meeting at the party's headquarters.

"The ward leaders are not even directly elected by the voters," wrote Singer, who previously served as leader of Center City's 8th Ward. "A ward leader is elected by the committeepeople once every four years."

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, said via a spokesman that he is following the law.  "If anyone wants to change it they can," spokesman Ken Smukler said. "But until they do, we'll follow the law."

The City Charter gives the City Council President the power to call a special election.  The Pennsylvania Election Code calls for the Democratic and Republican parties to select a candidate.  The Democratic City Committee's bylaws call for that to be done by a vote of the ward leaders.

Council President Darrell Clarke last week called for a special election to be held during the May 20 primary election to fill the seat of former Councilman Bill Green IV, who resigned last month to become chairman of the School Reform Commission.

The Democrats are expected to select as their candidate state Rep. Ed Neilson, who is finishing his first term in a district that was moved by redistricting in 2012 from Northeast Philadelphia to York County.

Matt Wolfe, an attorney and Republican ward leader in West Philly, is seeking his party's nomination.

Independent candidates must collect the signatures of 1,785 registered voters on nominating petitions by April 8 to secure a spot on the ballot.

Singer ran as a reformer in 2011, defeating in the Democratic primary election Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione's bid for tenth four-year term.  Singer was elected chairwoman in January 2012 but then clashed with her colleagues, Democrat Anthony Clark and Republican Al Schmidt. 

They ousted her from the chairwoman's post the day after the 2012 general election.  Clark is now chairman and Schmidt is vice chairman.